25 March 2008

Study Indicates Likely Corruption of Louisiana Supreme Court

If a study detailed in a forthcoming Tulane Law Review article is right, judicial campaign contributions talk in Louisiana's highest court. In "The Louisiana Supreme Court in Question: An Empirical and Statistical Study of the Effect of Campaign Money on the Judicial Function," Tulane Law Professor Vernon Palmer and Loyola University economist John Levendis show a substantial statistical correlation between a party's campaign contributions and favorable treatment from three of the seven Louisiana Supreme Court jurists, including current Chief Justice Pascal F. Calogero, Jr.

The study examined cases decided between 1992 and 2006, and focused on tort/negligence and constitutional law cases where justices typically have more discretion. It showed that the individual justices on the court encountered a campaign contributor in 17% of cases heard, with some 47% of all cases heard in the court involving a donor to at least one justice's campaign committee. The pair concluded that "[s]tatistically speaking, campaign donors have a favored status among litigants appearing before the Justices."

The authors examined each justice's tendencies on the bench--for example, whether she was typically a "defendant's judge" or a "plaintiff's judge." These data were collected in order to determine whether a justice's legal philosophy might be the reason for favorable treatment received from the court. A justice's shift away from his usual voting preferences in cases involving a donor, then, would lead to the conclusion that donors are not simply supporting the justice whose judicial philosophy and tendencies most favor their cases, but rather influencing the outcome through campaign contributions. The authors recorded how each justice performed when a campaign contributor was before her, and determined how the size of the party's campaign contribution affected the likelihood of a favorable verdict. The figures indicated that Justices Calogero, Kimball, and Weimer were all more likely to render a favorable verdict to the party who was a "net contributor," i.e. made a larger donation to that justice than did the other party. For example, a defendant's odds of receiving the support of Judge Kimball were shown to increase by 30% with each $1000 campaign contribution. When Palmer and Levendis factored in the timing of the gift, the correlation became even more pronounced: a donation within the prior month correlated to more than twice the likelihood of support from Justice Kimball, for example.

While the authors take pains to stress that the study shows correlation and not necessarily corruption, the reaction from the justices implicated by the study has been sharp. The justices have denied any causal relationship between campaign cash and friendly treatment by the court. Justice Kimball said, "I have never in my life made one single decision based on who the plaintiffs were or who the lawyers were," and noted that she has a hired fundraising coordinator and does not personally solicit contributions or otherwise oversee her campaign's war chest.

Palmer says that the study was originally inspired by his doubts about the propriety of elected justices sitting for their donors' cases, but Levendis has pointed out in a recent presentation at an economics conference in Auburn, Alabama that mandatory recusal in such cases would not be likely to resolve the problem. If a justice were forbidden from hearing a donor's case, Levendis reasoned, litigants might then make strategic campaign contributions in order to "knock out" the jurists most likely to be hostile to their cases. Although the remedy to this troubling problem remains an open question, one can be sure that possible solutions are being weighed in the bayou state.

(Also published in the April 2008 edition of Suffolk Law's newspaper, Dicta, and at LewRockwell.com)

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At 24 July, 2008 03:18, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Studies, surveys, and statements from judges –even a U.S. Supreme Court Justice– attest to problems associated with contributions to judges from lawyers and interest groups. In Louisiana, supreme court Justice Pascal Calogero’s name has often surfaced around contribution discussions. Incredibly, Calogero feels justified to attack the article, “Louisiana Supreme Court in Question: An Empirical and Statistical Study of the Effects of Campaign Money on the Judicial Function,” by two university professors.

Calogero’s continual carping about that study on campaign money (http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2008/07/calogero_attacks_study_of_supr.html ) seems dubious in light of the fact he has not blasted prior findings that reflect negatively on the courts. Contrastly, in1995 he ignored appearances of impropriety by not bothering to explain why his name came out in a news report of legislators and judges whose children (his 3 sons) received college scholarship waivers.

Further, the study on campaign contributions was too benevolent. There should be more published about non-campaign perks and gifts that judges receive, especially in lower courts –some harmless, but some donations definitely are not completely free from conceivable or intentional sway.

In like manner as the perks and gifts to Gretna Court sheriffs and judges led to the “Bail Bonds Unlimited” conviction of judges, there should be probes into New Orleans Courts concerning certain businesses. The “Jamaican Sunset” is such a business, as the 2 lawyers who own and operate that company (with scant accountability!) receive undue judicial favor –to the detriment of opposing litigants; they are not required to comply with statutes or cannons, and co-owner Keith Doley is a large campaign contributor!

I find it insulting if Calogero believes he can out-think people and cast aspersions on the professors’ study to divert attention from questionable activities –or make examples and thwart any future gutsy studies. Likewise it is an affront if Calogero, or his supporting cast blasted the study for purposes of compelling the public to DISREGARD realities that, in infamously CORRUPT Louisiana, there are more than ample reasons to ponder possibilities of judges being swayed by bribes, I mean contributions.

November 23, 1999, PBS-Frontline -- "JUSTICE FOR SALE"

-Bill Moyers investigated contributions to judges said the reputation of Calogero’s court “has been tarnished by the public perception of a quid pro quo.”
-Louisiana Association of Business and Industry director, Ginger Sawyer said Calogero had “totally unacceptable” record of voting; and a lot of judges “like to hold court in a corner of a cocktail party or a fundraiser.”
-United States Chief Justice Anthony Kennedy said: “Money in elections presents us with a tremendous challenge, a tremendous problem, and we are remiss if we don't at once address it and correct it.”

Justice for Sale; How special-interest money threatens the integrity of our courts

“Don't Get Sued in These States” --A study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Louisiana ranked 2nd worst legal climate

Barbara Ann Jackson


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