Television ads attacking candidates for state supreme courts for being “soft on crime” affect more than just elections, says the New York Times. A new study by two Emory Law School professors and the American Constitution Society group, finds evidence that they also make judges less likely to rule for criminal defendants in appellate cases. The study, which examined 3,000 criminal cases in 32 states from 2008 through 2013, along with tallies of television ads maintained by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, found that more television ads in state supreme court races meant an increased likelihood of rulings against criminal defendants.
The airing of 1,000 ads was associated with a minimal decrease in judges' decisions favoring criminal defendants — perhaps one in 100 cases — while 10,000 ads would result in a change in a judge's decision in 7 percent of cases. Because state supreme courts are multi-judge panels, it's not clear how often the changes in their voting behavior would alter the overall ruling in specific cases. A 7-2 ruling against a criminal defendant has the same outcome as a 6-3 ruling.