A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Court Watch: Mudfest 2010

Millions of dollars are pouring into races for slots on state Supreme Courts, where the winners will make decisions about the lives and liberty of individuals, the fates of major corporations and other weighty matters. Unfortunately the TV ads …

Court Fight in the Heart of Dixie

Summary
Alabama holds the distinction of having had the nation’s most expensive Supreme Court races, with $54 million spent from 1993 through 2006. This year’s battle for an open seat on the bench seems likely to sustain the pattern, with heaps of cash being thrown down for ads and a tone that has turned ugly.
The attacks in the Alabama campaign have been a departure from what we’ve seen in high court races in most states this year,

Winning Ugly in Wisconsin

Summary
In a Wisconsin throwdown, incumbent Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler narrowly lost his reelection bid after being hit with a barrage of deceptive attack ads. We’ve written about some of them in recent weeks.
 
Attack ads targeting the incumbent heavily outnumbered attacks aimed at the business-backed winner, Circuit Court Judge Mike Gableman. In the closing days of the campaign the ratio was roughly 2 to 1.
 
A misleading attack ad that ran hundreds of times implied that the incumbent overturned a murder conviction despite overwhelming evidence of the convicted man’s guilt.

Wisconsin Judgment Day, the Sequel

In this second of our “Court Watch” series, we return to what’s become a racially charged campaign in Wisconsin to replace Louis Butler, the only black justice on the state Supreme Court, with a white, business-backed lower court judge, Mike Gableman. We look at two ads that attack Butler and find both to be misleading.

Judgment Day in Wisconsin

Summary

Some of the hardest fought campaigns in 2008 will be to determine who sits on the highest courts in a number of states, courts where the stakes can be billions of dollars for corporations and insurance companies; millions in fees for trial lawyers; compensation for those who have been injured by negligence; or the liberty of individuals who have been convicted, rightly or wrongly, of crimes. In the past, some of those who would be state supreme court judges,