USA Today editorializes against “single-issue” special interest groups that have become increasing aggressive in trying to oust judges who do not support their cause. The paper says, “If single-issue groups get their way, judges everywhere will start looking over their shoulders every time they vote in a controversial case or rule in a way that is unpopular. That will undermine impartial justice. Over the past decade, special interests have chipped away at that ideal. State Supreme Court races have often degenerated into nasty battles with corporate interests on one side and trial lawyers on the other. (). Scurrilous attacks and nasty ad campaigns are now routine in judicial races.”
New twists are emerging this election season. Social conservatives are stepping up their attacks, and special interests of all sorts are working to influence “retention” races, where judges unopposed, and voters pick “yes” or “no.” In Kansas, anti-abortion forces want to oust four of the state’s seven Supreme Court justices. In Illinois, business interests are gunning for the chief justice, who ruled to eliminate a cap on malpractice damages. Perhaps the most pernicious campaign is in Iowa, where last year the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a law limiting marriage to a man and woman was unconstitutional. The ruling put the Iowa judges at the center of the nation’s battle over same-sex marriage. This fall, the Washington-based National Organization for Marriage and the political arm of the American Family Association, based in Tupelo, Miss., have joined with local groups to spend more than $300,000 to unseat three Iowa justices.