NPR’s Morning Edition: Big Money in Illinois Judicial Campaign

It’s a retention election, so the candidate has no opponent, but so far the race has drawn nearly $3 million–$2 million in support and $600,000 in opposition. The candidate, Thomas Kilbride, was elected to the Illinois Supreme Court in 2000. He is to become chief justice this week, but if he gets less than 60% of the vote on November 2, he’ll be out of a job.

As NPR’s Morning Edition tells the story, quoting Cynthia Canary, who runs the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform,

“We’ve got this notion embedded in our history that when judges sit on a case they’re supposed to … consider the law and not be swayed by campaign contributions or whom they know. But when you’re talking about this kind of money, even a justice who is doing their absolute best to apply that kind of standard and to be neutral, the problem is: Does the public buy it?”

Although the opposition’s advertising campaign focuses on Justice Kilbride’s decisions in some criminal cases, the Morning Edition story notes that

Ed Murnane [, who] leads the pro-business Illinois Civil Justice League, … rallied the business community after Kilbride voted this year against limits on medical malpractice claims.

Justice Kilbride is quoted as saying that

… he’d prefer to drive around introducing himself to voters, not spend millions on television ads that feature law enforcement officers vouching for his approach on crime.

“Nobody would be raising any money but for the announcement months ago, if not a year ago, when Ed Murnane of the Illinois Civil Justice League made it clear he was going to raise a million and a half dollars to come after me,” Kilbride said. “Now what am I to do … sit still, lay down and roll over and just get trampled?”

This is a great story for Coffee Party Austin’s upcoming legislative forum on citizen funding of judicial elections in Texas.

About Hamilton Richards

He retired in 2006 as a Senior Lecturer in Computer Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. These days he volunteers technical support for Citizens' Climate Lobby (Austin chapter), Common Ground for Texans, (, Integrity Texas (, Austin Rowing Club, and several friends.
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