Center for American Progress

RELEASE: State Supreme Courts with Multimillion-Dollar Elections Favor Corporations, Finds New CAP Analysis
Press Release

RELEASE: State Supreme Courts with Multimillion-Dollar Elections Favor Corporations, Finds New CAP Analysis

Press Contacts

  • Tanya Arditi

Washington, D.C. — In an update to a related 2012 report, the Center for American Progress published today a new report analyzing the influence of big business on state supreme courts. The original report examined hundreds of rulings from the six state supreme courts that have seen the most campaign cash—Alabama, Ohio, Texas, Michigan, Illinois, and Pennsylvania—finding that the courts that had seen the most money ruled more often for corporate defendants and against injured plaintiffs. “Big Business is Still Dominating State Supreme Courts” revisits the same six state supreme courts and, for the first time, breaks down the results by individual justices.

CAP’s new analysis found that corporate defendants going before the Alabama Supreme Court had an 82 percent success rate and an even higher rate with several justices’ individual votes. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled for corporate defendants in 77 percent of the cases studied, but Justices Terrence O’Donnell and Sharon Kennedy voted for defendants more than 90 percent of the time.

“According to our report, most of the courts with multimillion-dollar elections are favoring corporations over injured people,” said report author Billy Corriher, Director of Research for Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress. “In these states, courts are more likely to rule for corporations instead of individuals who have been injured, defrauded, or subjected to discrimination. If we want a level playing field in our courts, we have to push for reforms to minimize the influence of campaign cash or change the way America chooses judges.”

Additional findings in the report include:

  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the billionaire Koch brothers, and their big-business allies have spent millions of dollars in a decades-long effort to elect pro-corporate judges to state courts. Most of the courts that have seen multimillion-dollar elections are now dominated by conservative justices who rule more often for corporations and against individuals.
  • The justices with the highest rate of votes for corporations benefited from campaign contributions from corporations. The Republican State Leadership Committee—which is funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and big business—have dominated recent supreme court elections in Michigan, North Carolina, and elsewhere.
  • Those concerned about corporate campaign cash flooding our courts should advocate for public financing for judicial campaigns, which can keep judges responsive to voters and small donors by lessening the influence of wealthy campaign contributors. Judges themselves can help by implementing tougher ethics rules that require judges to sit out cases involving campaign contributors.

Read the full report here.

For more information or to speak to an expert, please contact Tanya Arditi at tarditi@americanprogress.org or 202-741-6258.

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