Our Justice-Optional Judiciary
March 3, 2009, 6:47 pm
Filed under: Ian | Tags: , ,

My latest musings at Huffington Post is now available.  A taste is below:

When a jury ordered Don Blankenship’s company to pay $50 million to one of its competitors, Blankenship had a plan; rather than pay the money, Blankenship decided to buy a judge.  An unknown lawyer named Brent Benjamin was in the midst of a quisical election campaign against incumbent West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Warren McGraw.  With no name-recognition, and only $25,000 in the bank, Benjamin’s campaign was going nowhere.

That is, of course, until Don Blankenship showed up.

Seeing an opportunity to shape the judges who would decide his appeal, Blankenship spent $3 million dollars in contributions, independent ads and other expenditures intended to place Brent Benjamin on the bench.  One ad, funded entirely by a front-organization created by Blankenship, accused incumbent Justice McGraw of voting to free an free an incarcerated child rapist, and of allowing that rapist to work in a public school.  Armed with Blankeship’s millions, Brent Benjamin became Justice Benjamin, and he soon cast the deciding vote in a case overturning the verdict against Blankenship’s company.  Blankenship paid $3 million to buy a judge, and saved $50 million for his company—a 1667% return on his investment.

Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case which could reverse Justice Benjamin’s decision and require similarly bought-and-paid-for judges to recuse themselves from cases involving their sugar daddies.  But the Blankenship/Benjamin incident is only the tip of a much larger iceberg.  Indeed, thousands of Americans who depend on the courts for impartial justice are left in the cold by an increasingly pro-corporate judiciary.


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