It’s one thing is your politicians are bought—it’s another thing if the media doesn’t do their job holding them to account. But what’s a country to do when its very judgesare for sale?
In Dylan’s post earlier this week on Bought Justice, we revealed how corruption in our courts, as usual spearheaded by money in elections, is slowly wrecking our economy.
As he wrote in the piece, “what makes America a great place to do business is the certainty provided by a world class court system that makes sure the rules of the road apply to everyone equally.”
One of the people most concerned about “bought justice” is Landon Rowland, Janus Capital Chairman Emeritus and the 15th president of the Kansas City Southern Railway.
Dylan had a chance to have an extended conversation with Mr. Rowland about the importance of independent judiciaries in sustaining economic development and encouraging investment, the corrupting effect of money in judicial elections, and the danger of letting “the rule of cash prevail over the rule of law.”
Janus Capital Chairman Emeritus Landon Rowland is worried about the corrupting influence of money in politics. This is not so unusual, except for two factors. Rowland is a mild midwestern businessman, the type of sober fair minded moderate who doesn’t express concern lightly. And Rowland’s concern isn’t bought politicians, but bought judges. Rowland believes that corruption in our courts, as usual spearheaded by money in elections, is slowly wrecking our economy. What makes America a great place to do business is the certainty provided by a world class court system that makes sure the rules of the road apply to everyone equally. This, he believes, is now in jeopardy.
I’ve written before about the unholy alliance of business and state that sells our elections and our legislative process to the highest bidder. That same unholy alliance is corrupting our courts through a deep and effective campaign to buy off judges the way that our politicians have been purchased. Rowland pointed this out in a 2009 op-ed opposing a significant change in the way that Missouri judges are chosen. Currently, the state has a nonpartisan commission of experts that screen judicial candidates, and then the governor picks among them. The electorate gets to vote judges out of office through “retention elections”. This protects the independence of the judiciary, and ensures that judges don’t have to go begging to corporate interests for campaign solicitations. This “Missouri Plan” was implemented to ward off machine corruption in the 1940s, and is so successful that it is in use by 24 states.
A new report details how big business and corporate lobbyists are packing courts with judges who put special interests ahead of the public interest
The Occupy Wall Street movement is shining a spotlight on how much influence big-money interests have with the White House and Congress. But people are not talking about how big money is also increasingly getting its way with the courts, which is too bad. It’s a scandal that needs more attention. A blistering new report details how big business and corporate lobbyists are pouring money into state judicial elections across the country and packing the courts with judges who put special interests ahead of the public interest.
A case in point: West Virginia. In 2007, the West Virginia Supreme Court, on a 3-2 vote, threw out a $50 million damage award against the owner of a coal company. Funny thing: the man who would have had to pay the $50 million had spent $3 million to help elect the justice who cast the deciding vote. The West Virginia ruling was so outrageous that in 2009 the United States Supreme Court overturned it. But that was unusual. In most cases, judges are free to decide cases involving individuals and groups that have paid big money to get them elected.