PA GOP Releases Web Video: Justice For Sale
Wecht accepts $300,000 from big-money Philadelphia trial lawyers
HARRISBURG, PA – The Republican Party of Pennsylvania released a web video called “Justice For Sale” regarding David Wecht’s willingness to be bought with a $300,000 donation from the Committee for a Better Tomorrow PAC, a special interest group bankrolled by the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association.
The video can be viewed here.
The narration of the video is as follows:
[Narrarator:] This year Pennsylvania will elect a new judge to the Superior Court, and Democrat David Wecht has allowed big money, politics as usual to play a role in his campaign. Let’s look at the facts. On October 14th, Wecht pledged to refuse contributions from special interest groups. No money from big money.
[Wecht:] and this involves the third-party, big money special interest groups…it’s an infecting influence in Pennsylvania elections.
[Narrarator:] Big money, an infecting influence. If he felt this way, why then did Wecht take 300,000 from a big money PAC funded by Philly trial lawyers? $300,000 from Philadelphia trial lawyers. And that last minute, emergency cash infusion is 60% of his total fundraising.
[Narrarator:] Something’s wrong here. How can we expect Wecht to be a fair judge if he allows special interest groups to bankroll his campaign?
[Narrarator:] Tell David Wecht that justice is not for sale. Vote for Vic Stabile on Tuesday, November 8th.
Chairman Gleason released the following statement: “By taking $300,000 from Philadelphia trial lawyers, David Wecht has allowed a special interest group to bankroll his campaign as he attempts to buy his way onto Pennsylvania’s Superior Court. This is a clear example of justice for sale. Could you imagine appearing in David Wecht’s courtroom with a Philadelphia trial lawyer on the opposing side? Do you think you could get a fair trial? I don’t think so, and I think the majority of Pennsylvanians would agree. Voters should get to the polls on November 8th and to tell David Wecht that justice is not for sale, and support Vic Stabile.”
U.S. Supreme Court Rules Judge Who Received Extraordinary Campaign Contributions Must Recuse Himself
In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kenendy wrote: “We conclude that there is a serious risk of actual bias—based on objective and reasonable perceptions—when a person with a personal stake in a particular case had a significant and disproportionate influence in placing the judge on the case by raising funds or directing the judge’s election campaign when the case was pending or imminent. The inquiry centers on the contribution’s relative size in comparison to the total amount of money contributed to the campaign, the total amount spent in the election, and the apparent effect such contribution had on the outcome of the election.”
(Cornell Law. HUGH M. CAPERTON, et al., PETITIONERS v. . June 8, 2009. Accessed October 30, 2010.)
Jurists, Business Leaders, Reform Groups Join “Justice for Sale” Case
An unprecedented array of former state Supreme Court justices, business leaders and civic reform groups has called on the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm one of the most basic rights in any system of law: the right to a fair hearing before a neutral arbiter.
The groups filed briefs in Caperton v. Massey, which has emerged as a landmark case over the spiraling role of special-interest spending in judicial elections. The trend has troubled many, including former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and caused some to question whether justice is now “for sale.”
Theodore B. Olson, former Solicitor General of the United States and counsel for the petitioners, argues that the Constitution’s due-process requirement requires West Virginia Justice Brent D. Benjamin to recuse himself from a lawsuit involving Don Blankenship, a coal executive who spent $3 million to elect him.
“The improper appearance created by money in judicial elections is one of the most important issues facing our judicial system today,” Olson said of the case. “A line needs to be drawn somewhere to prevent a judge from hearing cases involving a person who has made massive campaign contributions to benefit the judge.”
(“Jurists, Business Leaders, Reform Groups Join “Justice for Sale” Case.” Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. January 6, 2009. Accessed October 30, 2011.)
Trial lawyers give Wecht $300,000 in judge race
A trial lawyers’ group has given $300,000 to Allegheny County Judge David Wecht’s campaign for Pennsylvania Superior Court.
Wecht, a Democrat, reported the contributions from the Committee for a Better Tomorrow on Friday in a campaign finance report covering the five weeks ending Oct. 24.
(Trial lawyers give Wecht $300,000 in judge race. Philadelphia Inquirer. October 29, 2011.)
Pa. judge races are attracting more money and potential bias
The Patriot-News asked each candidate running for statewide appellate court when they would recuse themselves from a trial. David Wecht indicated he would be abundantly cautious.
“My approach is to be overly transparent and abundantly cautious if there is any sign of a conflict of interest,” said David Wecht, Democrat for Superior Court.
(Long, Heather, “Pa.. judge races are attracting more money and potential bias,” Patriot-News, October 29, 2011, http://www.pennlive.com/editorials/index.ssf/2011/10/pa_judge_races_are_attracting.html)
Pennsylvania Superior Court candidates spar over outside interests
A proposed ban on campaign activity by outside interest groups became a wedge issue in an otherwise courtly debate today between the two candidates for state Superior Court.
Democrat David Wecht, using an opportunity to question his Republican opponent Victor Stabile, asked Stabile to join him in signing a mutual pledge to renounce any advertisements, mailing or other activity by outside interest groups or their political committees on behalf of either candidate.
Wecht, an Allegheny County Court judge, acknowledged he had not seen any signs of such activity to date in the low-profile state court race. But he said it has sparked up in court races in the past and he argued this would be a good, pro-active step to ensure this seat won’t be bought by “third-party, big money special interest groups.”
(Thompson, Charles. Pennsylvania Superior Court candidates spar over outside interests. Patriot News. October 14, 2011.)
# # #