500 Howard Street  
Suite 206  
San Francisco, CA  
94105-3000  
Voice: (415) 543-1200  
Fax: (415) 543-8311  

Back to the home page...

visit our Tools and Techniques page
visit our online Products catalog
visit our Discussion area
visit our Partnes page
Who we are and how to reach us...


Justice for Sale: Background

Interview with Alan Dershowitz

Alex Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter professor of law at Harvard University law school, and an expert on the issue of judicial elections.

Q: The cost of running for a judicial position is rising faster than the cost of running for any other form of elective office in the country. Does that trend disturb you and if so, why?

    AD: It's very disturbing to know that it costs a lot of money, more than ever before, to run for judicial office. First, where does the money come from? Why do people contribute to the election of judges? What do they expect in return? What kind of people run for judge when they know that they have to raise enormous amounts of money? It's destroying our system of separation of powers, which is based on having different kinds of people in the executive and legislative, the popular branches, on the one hand and the judicial branch on the other hand. It's turning judges into politicians.

Q: But in this country, the Jacksonian tradition says the people are supposed to decide.

    AD: It's absolutely wrong for the people to be deciding particular cases. That's Castro in the soccer stadium, that's Nero in Rome, thumb up, thumb down. Judging is a professional task. It is something that you have to be trained to do. You can't be too popular if you're going to be a good judge. You shouldn't be worried about where your next political contribution is coming from and whether or not a decision will make you popular or unpopular with the people. It is designed to be a check on popular government. We eliminate that. We create redundancy. We now have popularly elected judges, popularly elected prosecutors, popularly elected senators, congressmen, presidents. Nobody's checking on the popular elections.

Q: Isn't the people's opinion important in that context. We're a democracy, right?

    AD: The people's opinion is very important. And it's reflected in the presidency, in congress, in state legislatures. Unfortunately, in my view, in prosecutors. It should not be reflected in judges. That's the one place where you need a check on democracy.

Q: How so?

    AD: You need somebody, some institution, some group that takes the long view. That doesn't respond immediately, based on polls or the crisis of the day. That looks to the past for precedent, looks to the future, the impact of this decision on other cases, looks to the present to be sure, but with an eye both on the past and the future. A long view, rather than the short view, that is necessary to survive in politics.

Q: If you politicize that role you can't do that?

    AD: You cannot expect judges who are politicians raising money from constituents who expect something in return, who have to look over their shoulders to see whether or not their views are going to be popular, to do justice. You can't do justice when you are worried about what everybody is going to think about your opinion. The reason that we give tenure to judges and life term's to federal judges is to insulate them from the day to day business of politics. We eliminate that important check on democracy when we elect our judges. Every day is consumed with raising money. I heard about a judge the other day who could not pay attention to writing her opinions because she was running around the state collecting money. There's something wrong with that.

Q: In Lucerne county, Pennsylvania, a fairly lower level judgeship is up for election. The last time they ran in this county, I think it was about $20,000. Now the minimum, the four candidates are going to spend is over $200,000. That's a whole different ballgame isn't it?

    AD: When you're dealing with raising thousands of dollars a day you really change the nature of judicial elections. You really make judges beggars. You make them people who have to come to the public and say please vote for me, I'll give you something in return. There's great danger when taking money from lawyers who argue in front of them, that they could be discriminatory against lawyers who won't contribute to them, who contributed to their opponent. Lawyers get very nervous and contribute to all the judges. It becomes so crassly political that judging loses its legitimacy.

Q: You told me about lists of contributors. What awareness has this led to by judges about who is giving support?

    AD: There are judges who keep lists, in the drawer, of their contributors and their opponents contributors. When you're appearing in front of such a judge can you really expect justice? Can you really expect that the thumb, the hand and the whole elbow of money won't be put on the scale of justice. It's unrealistic.

Q: You really think that judges are looking at those lists and making decisions guided by where that money came from?

    AD: I have no doubt that judges look to their contributors, judges look to their constituents. Survival is the essence of politics. You can't survive in politics, whether it's running for judge or anything else, without enormous amounts of money, without voter support and without support of political leaders . One rule about politics is nobody pays money for good government. You pay money expecting something in return. It's bad enough when you give senators and presidents money. It's much worse when a lawyer gives a judge money, or a corporation gives a judge money. Either he or she is going to lean over forwards or lean over backwards. The essence of a judge is he or she has to stand straight.

Q: We caught an interesting moment earlier this week in Lackawanna county, Pennsylvania. The candidate went to Lackawanna county to a fund raiser organized by a big law firm in Scranton, which is not even in the district where the judgeship is at stake. The lawyers called and said we want to have a fund raiser for you. They handed him 15, 20 grand and he went. Does that bother you?

    AD: One of the worst things about lawyers holding fund-raisers for judges is they defraud their clients as a result. They tell their clients, by the way I had a fund-raiser for that judge. Hire me. The subtle message is I can get to him, I can influence him. If it's false then it's fraud, if it's true, it's worse.

Q: Are you suggesting that clients hire attorneys for who those attorneys might have given money?

    AD: What I'm suggesting is much worse. What I'm suggesting is that lawyers go out and solicit clients on the basis of claimed control over judges. The most commonly heard phrase that lawyers use in getting clients is, I have that judge in my pocket. I own him, he owes me. That's the way lawyers get clients in states which have elected judges and where judges have to raise enormous amounts of money from lawyers.

Q: He really did buy them in the sense of real dollars and cents.

    AD: I don't think you can buy a judge but I think you can rent them. What you can do is persuade your client that you have influence over that judge and that has a terrible influence on the system. Because then the client says I know what kind of lawyer I'm dealing with, now I'm going to ask him to do something even worse. It really begins to have a corrupting influence on the system. Either an apparently corrupting or a real corrupting influence. In the business of doing justice, appearances are as important as reality.

Q: It really doesn't matter whether or not the corruption is real, if the people have the perception that equal balance has been weighted one way or the other.

    AD: We have enough trouble persuading citizens of this country that there is real justice for the poor or the disadvantaged when we have appointed judges. When we have elected judges, who are out there soliciting money and only the rich can give money, then it's impossible to give credibility to our system. What it does is it reifies views that many poor and other people have that justice is for sale and only goes to the rich. More and more we're giving the impression that justice is only for the rich and more and more it's true.

Q: You know politics is messy and open to influence, but when you take that structure and overlay it on the judiciary it undermines the purpose of the judiciary.

    AD: One of the reasons politics can work with the hurly burley of money being given here, influence, television, rich people, corporations, is because we have a judiciary that can serve as a check on that excessive influence of money and politics. We need one branch that can stand up straight and say we are incorruptible, we don't take money. We don't talk to people about cases. We don't go to fund raisers, we don't get involved in politics. If you don't have that branch you give up something very considerable. There is also something to be said for electing judges in states where the alternative is appointing judges in a very political process. I'm told by friends in New York for example, that today elected judges strike the balance in favor of civil liberties. Appointed judges have to be very conservative, have to be very law and order oriented. Having to always be in favor of popular views, otherwise they won't get appointed, whereas elected judges can run and maybe the public doesn't know too much about them. They can get elected and then really feel they can do justice because they only have to run every 14 years in New York. Whereas if you're running every 2 years or every 4 years, it's very different.

Q: In Pennsylvania, they have a canon that sets certain rules on how you can run for judge. Can you ever come up with rules that would actually protect the honesty and credibility of the judiciary?

    AD: The canons which claim to control judicial elections are a sham. You have campaign managers to get around them, to whisper the things you can't say. You don't have to be overt and talk about what cases are before you or how you're going to decide cases. It's very clear that a message is being sent, you vote for me and you can count on what I'll do. One of the most famous cases was when Judge Wakler, who became a great chief judge in New York, got a jail cell and borrowed a robe and slammed the door shut and campaigned saying that he was going to shut the door on criminals. Of course as soon as he got up to the court of appeals in New York he became a very liberal judge, a progressive judge, probably freed more criminals than almost any other judge in modern New York history. So he was engaged in fraudulent misrepresentation, that's the way he got elected. Then he did what he thought was the right thing to do.

Q: The whole idea of setting ten guilty men free rather than sending one innocent man to prison, is a tough campaign stance to take nowadays, isn't it?

    AD: Can you imagine any judge saying better ten guilty go free than one innocent be wrongly confined. He wouldn't get ten votes. Today, you have to say in effect, better ten innocent be executed than even one possible guilty person going free. There is terror struck in the heart of judges to acquit anybody, to set someone free as a result of the exclusionary rule, to do anything which makes the streets less safe. Judges have become super prosecutors as the result of elections. They are terrified about freeing anybody. The Willy Horton syndrome, which has terrified politicians since Michael Dukakis freed Willy Horton, now has terrorized judges. It's called the Rose Bird syndrome among judges. Judge Bird, who was a great judge, was recalled as a result of death penalty votes, along with several other judges. The message has been sent to California judges. You could never ever get a judge today to take a courageous stand in a criminal case. When I argue a case for a person charged with a crime, give me three octogenarian Republicans who have no political interest in being further promoted, whose careers are at an end and who just want to do justice.

Q: Without looking over his shoulder.

    AD: Without looking over his election shoulder or even his appointment shoulder. Any time you have a judge who's worried about his or her career, you know how they're going to vote. They're always going to vote to keep the defendant in jail. They're going to vote in favor of the popular way. And judges can't be popular. You can't expect judges to try to win beauty contests and popularity contests and that's what elections are, beauty and popularity contests.

Q: What you're saying is politicizing the bench can basically kill?

    AD: Politicizing the election of judges can result in people who otherwise would have been sentenced to life imprisonment getting sentenced to death. We've seen that in Alabama, we see it all over the country today. Colorado may have changed, instead of a jury deciding on the death penalty three elected judges are going to decide on the death penalty. What judge is going to risk his career by not imposing the death penalty in a case where that judge thinks the death penalty would be popular. So yes, popular election of judges, kills. It's the difference between life and death.

Q: Because that judge, thinking towards the next election, thinks if he frees the convicted party, he may not get reelected?

    AD: The judge not only thinks that if I give life imprisonment to a person who I could give the death penalty to, I won't get elected, the prosecutor lets it be known. If you don't vote for the death penalty, we'll let the electorate know about that next time around.

Q:Would the great judges, like Oliver Wendell Holmes, Benjamin Cardozo, and Louis Brandeis have won elections today?

    AD: You'd have to tell whether the system is really broken. Judges are becoming handsomer and prettier and that means that we're sacrificing. I'm not saying you can't be handsome, pretty and smart, but would you go to a doctor who's good looking. I always pick my doctors on the basis of how ugly they are. I want to make sure that no doctor has ever been put into a position of power and prominence because of their looks. The same thing should be true of judges. We don't want handsome judges and pretty judges. We don't want judges who are elected on their looks. We want judges who are elected on their brains, on their souls, on their hearts. You wouldn't get Oliver Wendell Holmes on the bench today. You wouldn't get Benjamin Cardozo, even though he was nominally elected, on the bench today. He was really appointed. You wouldn't get Louis Brandeis on the bench today. You wouldn't get some of the greatest judges. Thurgood Marshall would not become a justice if he had to run for election. We're going to get a bunch of bland good looking politicians as our judges for the 21st century and we are entitled to more and better.

Q: Is that because they are more media friendly?

    AD: I can't imagine Oliver Wendell Holmes sitting for a 30 second commercial and coming up with a glib bumper sticker. The same thing is true of some of the other great judges. You just can't imagine the best judges having to run for office. It's inconsistent. It's incompatible.

Q: They were scholars, distant academics, they didn't play crowds. Is that the reason that they were separate from the people as opposed to trying to be among the people?

    AD: The great judges were people with great minds, great hearts and souls, who had a broad vision, who couldn't'appeal to the television camera necessarily or to the quick interview or the bumper sticker. They're people who lived their lives in the libraries, not on the campaign trail. We're sacrificing an enormous amount when we elect politicians to the bench.

Q: Where's the problem, because this is America this is democracy and we're just automatically attuned to think that that's good period. You're saying we're thinking wrong?

    AD: To be elected a judge today you have to be a populist and you might think why not, after all we're America. We're the country of populism, the country of democracy, but we wouldn't elect our CEOs of corporations. We wouldn't elect our chief surgeons. We wouldn't elect our ministers, priests or rabbis. Why do you think we should be electing judges. Judges are much closer to the minister, priest, rabbi, professor, intellectual, the person who's supposed to see the broad view. The person who's supposed to check on populism. Why are we spending money on three popular branches of government, it's just redundant. We already have a popularly elected legislature, that's populism. A popularly elected chief executive, that's populism. We should have one branch of government that is immune from the day to day political back and forth, polling and raising money. Who can always look at the big picture.

Q: By being sensitized to the needs of an election you can't do that?

    AD: You can't look at the big picture when you're worried about how much money you're going to raise for tomorrow's TV commercial. You can't look at the big picture when you’re concerned about what the polls will say tomorrow. You can’t look at the big picture when you’re worried that a just decision will be an unpopular decision.

Q: Give a couple of examples.

    AD: Brown versus Board of Education, desegregating the public schools of America could not have happened with an elected judiciary. Roe versus Wade would not have happened with an elected judiciary. Many of the most important decisions safeguarding the rights of individuals, free speech rights of individuals. After all free speech is supposed to be unpopular. We don't need the courts to defend popular free speech. We need the courts to defend the free speech of communists, fascists, atheists or bigots but fortunately for this country those groups have no constituency. So what popularly elected judge is going to defend the free speech rights of people who don't vote in elections?

Q: The important decisions that guide, frame,and shape our future are quite often very unpopular in their day. The judiciary is supposed to be ahead of the people, not with the people?

    AD: The judiciary is supposed to look to the past, to the future and to the big picture. They're supposed to look out for the best interests of the country in the long range. Brown versus Board of Education is a perfect example. Unpopular to the extreme in its day even some newspapers editorialized against it. It soon became so popular, that it's not even a question of popularity any more, it's right. Everybody knows it was right but it needed unelected judges appointed for life to have the courage to look at the American people and say you cannot have apartheid in our public schools.

Q: If that was an elected judge sitting there your suggestion is what?

    AD: If we had elected judges deciding on segregation in our schools, our schools would still be segregated. Nobody would have provided the leadership to change the mindset because elected officials only care about today, tomorrow and at most, the day after tomorrow. Nobody cares about next generation, next century, next millennium, that's what judges have to think about.

Q: The effect of politicization is it forces short term thinking in a world that thinks long term. Those are two opposing forces, aren't they?

    AD: Judges are supposed to base their decisions on precedent, on the constitution and on the long view. Usually, they're protected in their views by saying this is a long established precedent but if you decide an unpopular decision no matter how much precedent, there is your opponent, in 30 seconds, able to devastate you. They can say, you're against the cops, you're against law and order. You're in favor of the criminals, you're in favor of the atheists, you're in favor of the communists. It reduces very complex issues to sound bites and it's exactly what judges shouldn't be concerned about. If a judge runs and even wins an election but it cost a lot of money to offset 30 second commercials, the next time the judge has a very complex decision he or she might say it's just not worth it. I won't dissent this time or I'll join the majority or I'll write an opinion that will be popular. The day that happens our judiciary has been destroyed. The day a judge looks beyond the cases, looks beyond justice and looks to popular acceptability and fund raising is the death of our judiciary.

Q: Are we really moving toward that, is that happening now?

    AD: We have already moved toward the death of our judiciary in some states in which judicial campaigns are run the same as congressional campaigns. Large sums of money and sound bite commercials. Those aren't judges, those are politicians in robes.

Q: How does one differentiate oneself as a candidate?

    AD: You can't run for judge on the basis of being a good judge, somebody who does justice, because people don't care about justice, they want to get their way. They want to make sure their approach is followed. There's a funny story in Florida, where public defenders run. Imagine running for public defender. Candidate A says I just graduated Harvard law school, top of my class. I have a great deal of experience. If you elect me I'll win all my cases and all the criminals will go free on the street in your neighborhood. Candidate B, I just graduated last in my class in the worst law school and I've never won a case and I promise you I won't win any cases as public defender and that way all the criminals will be locked up. Who do you think is going to win. Well that's just like judges. Judges can't run if they expect to do justice. Justice means not listening to what the people want you to do, today.

Q: The canon in this state says, I can't tell you I'm running for judge and I can't tell you how I stand on issues X Y and Z. How do candidates not answer that question when asked a hundred times?

    AD: When a judge is running, notwithstanding whatever the candidates might say, the judge can always say read this opinion, read that opinion. The campaign manager can summarize the opinion. You know he always holds in favor of the police, he's always on the side of this or that. You can say it without violating the canon and judges do it all the time. A good politician knows how to circumvent the rules. Judges shouldn't circumvent rules.

Q: In Lucerne county, Pennsylvania, everybody who runs for judge is really tough on crime, even though there isn't a big crime problem there.

    AD: When you run for election you run on hot button issues and you run against unpopular issues. It's exactly what a judge shouldn't be doing.

Q: You said we don't pick our doctors or our hospitals on the basis of popular support. The guy who got the most votes is not the guy who's going to take out my appendix. How is it a distortion of democracy?

    AD: Democracy means that we vote for certain kinds of people, legislators, chief executives. It also means we don't vote for certain kinds of people. The person who is trying to cure cancer in the Massachusetts general hospital does not have to run for that position. If he had to run for that position, we would have some glad hander with a smile being in charge of curing cancer. We don't elect people when you need professionalism, when you need specialization, when you need to achieve a goal. In this case it's the goal of justice and it is inappropriate to vote for judges.

Q: We should treat judges as professionals who know their business and we should just let them do their business.

    AD: Democracy does not mean that the popular branches of government run amok and just do what the people want and everybody just follows today's poll and tomorrow's election. It means a checking of judges by legislators and executives, a checking of executives and legislators by judges. When we wrote our constitution it was not written for efficiency. It was not written for popularity. It was written to be the most enduring document of governance in the history of the world and it has been that. One of the reasons it's been so successful is it took the judges out of politics and it created a special niche for them, life time good behavior appointment to check on the other popular branches. It's worked, why fix it. Why try to introduce elections, it was a Jacksonian disaster.

Q: Why has this now suddenly become such a problem?

    AD: The problem of electing judges has grown far worse because elections have become more expensive and more complicated. Television demands, sound bites, commercials are very expensive. It's a problem for all elections but when this problem gets focused on the judiciary it shows how inappropriate it is to elect judges. In some respects I'm glad that it's become much more expensive to elect judges. I think it will lead to the demise of the election of judges because it will show the system working so badly. It's bad enough you have to raise $25 million to run for a senate seat in a large state but when you have to start raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to run for a judicial seat, it's going to corrupt the judiciary. I think we'll finally get around to realizing we made a serious mistake back in the 1830s and it's time to correct it.

Q: Supreme Court Justice Kennedy says the solution is to educate the people better about what they should expect from a judge. How do you get people to understand how they're supposed to see the judicial candidates?

    AD: Where is the incentive for educating our people about why they should vote for a judge. Justice Kennedy is not going to go out there to educate people. He doesn't go on television and talk to the people about voting for only good quality judges. Where's the incentive going to come from? The media doesn't have that incentive. They would like to get the money for the commercial. The political parties don't have that incentive. I think it's a fond hope but a fanciful one that we will ever educate our people to vote for quality judges, the best judges. Justice Kennedy could not be elected judge, today.

Q:You talked about Castro in the stadium but you never quite explained that. That is the ultimate, that's the logical conclusion of democratic judiciary?

    AD: If you want to take democracy to it's logical or illogical conclusion, why don't we just have defendants put in big stadiums, get tens of thousands of people to come and just vote thumbs up, thumbs down. We can even do it on the Internet today. Have everybody in the country vote by referendum as to the guilt or innocence of Jan Benet Ramsey's mother or father. Let's have a popular vote on which of the two we should prosecute and whether or not they should be convicted. I mean that's a burlesque of democracy. We need professional judges. We have a jury, the jury is democracy at work. The reason it works so well is the jury's made up 12 ordinary people that don't have to look over their shoulders. They are not running for re-election as jurists. Then you have an appointed judge who controls them to make sure that only relevant evidence comes in. That's the way the system ought to work.

Q: The judiciary is suppose to act as a buffer against the popular will. Why is that important?

    AD: The judiciary has as its primary job a buffer against the public will, to make sure that people aren't swept up in the hysteria of McCarthyism in this country, Nazism in Germany. You know if there were a strong judiciary in Germany in the 1930s, standing up to the popular will, Hitler, things might have been a little bit different. It's harder to have populist tyranny in the United States because we have an unelected federal judiciary. We have judges who were appointed maybe 20 years ago, who are going to serve for the next 20 years. They see a long term picture. They are not accountable to the person who appointed them. They can act as a buffer to the excesses of democracy. The framers of our constitution were concerned about the excesses of democracy. Remember the French revolution was contemporaneous with the founding of our constitutional system, and we saw the excesses of the French revolution. People being taken out and guillotined on the basis of popular will. No judge having the courage to stand up to that democratic excess. So we drafted a constitution which imposed constraints, 40 years later, Jackson comes along, saying, we need more democracy and so the structure of our constitution was in some respects undone by Jacksonian democracy.

Q: The expectation on the voter's end is somehow supposed to translate into somebody who thinks like me and will do what I want done. The real truth is that the voter isn't equipped to know?

    AD: There's a great debate about when you elect a representative is that representative supposed to just mirror your views or is he supposed to do the right thing and that's why you vote for him. Whichever way that debate comes out in terms of legislators and in terms of executives, a judge doesn't fit into either of those categories. A judge is supposed to do justice and look to the precedents of the past. The implications of the case for the future, justice to this particular defendant without concern for how the people think he is doing. You don't give judges report cards. You don't give them weekly assessments. Let the verdict of history determine whether a judge has done a great job.

Q: Who is responsible for the rise of cost?

    AD: The rise of costs in electing judges is a natural consequence of democracy, capitalism and the media. We will see it happening consistently. You'll always get some unqualified rich guy who comes in and says I could become a judge. All I have to do is spend $100,000 of daddy's money. Then the next election is going to cost $200,000. It becomes an increasingly costly process. It never goes down. It only goes in one direction and if you think it's expensive today, wait till you see what it's going to look like in 10 or 15 years. It's just going one way, up.

Q: Are we keeping good candidates from running for judge?

    AD: We're not only keeping good candidates away from running for judge, we're even keeping fairly good and high mediocre candidates from running for judge. We are forcing the worst people to run for judge. Glad handing politicians who have been failures at their own practice, who think this is an easy way out, an easy way to get status and retirement, raise money, call on corporate funds, call on funds of lawyers. We are electing some of the worst people. You know lawyers won't tell you that because they're afraid to talk about the judges they practice in front of. Sometime, listen to them in private. It's a joke, some of the people who are getting elected. You know there's an old principle in law, necessity knows no law and a lot of lawyers call judges necessity because they also know no law. You don't have to know any law or be a decent lawyer to get elected today. You just have to have a nice smile, good campaign manager, a slogan and some dough in the bank.

Q: I have a sense that the election industry, the consultants, are moving to this reasonably untapped market where about 85% of the judges in the country are elected one way or the other.

    AD: The election business, the business that builds on itself, pollsters, consultants have found a great new avenue for their talents, judges. Judges, even when they used to get elected, didn't have campaign managers, didn't have consultants, didn't take polls, didn't need media people. Today, they need all of that and that's going to just increase and drive the cost up and it drives it up in cycles because nobody has an incentive to drive the price down.

Q: What's the end result of this?

    AD: The good end result will be that the American people will see a burlesque of elected judges and will say we've had it up to here, we can't elect our judges. Let's go back to the federal system of appointing judges or a better system, a system of having a committee of academics, former deans, former judges, people who really can assess the quality of judges. That's the good possibility. The bad outcome, it's just going to get worse and worse and we're going to see the end of the judiciary, the death of justice in America.

Q: There was a phrase that you used, "delegitimize," explain this?

    AD: Justice depends on legitimacy. Justice must be seen to be done. People have to have a sense of confidence and the election of judges, particularly the spiraling costs is delegitimizing the judiciary. It's making them like everybody else, just crass politicians. One of the reasons we put robes on judges is to take them out of the ordinary, to make them seem as if they are the embodiment of a legal principle. Put them on the street, put them on a campaign, give them a microphone, a bumper sticker, they're just like everyone else. That's not democracy, that's an abuse of democracy.

Q: Are we running a risk that the average citizen is going to walk into court and be distrustful as to whether or not they're going to get a fair shake?

    AD: Citizens already have a real sense of distrust. When it comes to the judiciary they don't know much about it. Lawyers are strange to them and the judges are strange to them. Now that they know that that judge up there recently ran for election and won over someone else and my lawyer, did he support him or not? You have to wonder. You have to ask all kinds of political questions. It will simply increase the sense of delegitimacy that I think already exists for the judiciary in the minds of many people.

Q: What's really terrible, is that you don't know whether that money has had an effect, or not.

    AD: Remember, that half the litigants in any case in the court, lose. It's so important that when a litigant walks out of that court room the loser, that he or she say to themself, well at least it was fair, at least there was justice. When you walk out of that courtroom a loser, thinking that maybe you lost because the other lawyer contributed to the campaign fund of the judge, you begin to lose faith in the legal system. Even when you walk out as a winner, you wonder did I win legitimately or did I win because my lawyer went to a fund raiser.

Q: What's the effect of that on the rule of law?

    AD: The effect of delegitimizing judges on the rule of law is fatal. The rule of law requires that we see the judiciary as legitimate. After all they are not an ordinary part of the system. They are in some respects a secular priesthood. It's very important that we have faith that they can do justice.

Q: And if there's too much involved we shake that faith?

    AD: Money shakes faith. Whenever you hear somebody say it's not about money, it's about money. People are very cynical about money in politics. You put money in that courtroom and the blindfold comes down from the statue of justice.

Q: She is blindfolded but presumably she's not supposed to have pockets either.

    AD: The statue of justice has pockets and peaks beneath the blindfold to see who contributed to those pockets. And that's the way the people will see the process of justice.

Q: And in the end, when they have their day in court?

    AD: In the end, people won't think they had their day in court when they are before a judge who was elected as the result of campaign contributions and lawyers contributing money.

<<Back to "Justice for Sale" index


 

Investigations | Tools | Products | Discussion | Partners | About CIR

Contents of this site ©1999 The Center for Investigative Reporting, Inc.