Bench Memos

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Silver Lining of the Election: State Courts


Anyone looking for a silver lining in this election cycle should consider the ringing endorsement for the principle of judicial restraint among the millions of voters who actually cast a ballot.

In Ohio, where a Democratic tide favored judges with activist tendencies, the restrained incumbent Justices O’Connor and Stratton won landslide victories.

In Louisiana, despite an extremely well funded trial lawyer effort, Judge Greg Guidry beat back Judge Jimmy Kuhn in a remarkable 59-41% win to flip Lousiana’s supreme court in the direction of restraint.

In Texas all three Supreme Court incumbents were re-elected despite massive late expenditures by the trial bar.

In Alabama, where one of the nation’s preeminent Supreme Court judges, Harold See, retired, it looks like Judge Greg Shaw will narrowly defeat trial attorney favorite Judge Deborah Paseur.

In Mississippi, restrained Justice Ann Lamar and restrained Judge Randy Pierce both won, while incumbent Jim Smith lost to the popular former prosecutor Jim Kitchens.

The worst news of the night was from Michigan. Chief Justice Cliff Taylor could not withstand a barrage of extremely dishonest last minute ads by the Democratic Party that earlier this year tried to take over the state through the much talked about Reform Michigan Government Now proposal.  The 16-point Obama landslide helped Judge Diana Hathaway put the final nail in Taylor’s bid for re-election.

Overall, it was a strong night for state courts, confirming what internal polling has long shown:  Americans strongly prefer judges who practice judicial restraint and resist the temptation to rule based on “empathy” or other passions — that is, to legislate from the bench.    Last night’s election results must not be misinterpreted as a mandate for judicial activism in our courts.  The principles of constitutionally limited government have been a hallmark of our system since our Founding. These results prove that those principles, far from being abandoned, enjoy broad support among the American people.


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