Bench Memos

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.

Most Popular

Film & TV

In Unsane, Aetna Meets Kafka

Unsane doesn’t take the form of a horror film; at first, it appears to be a Hitchcockian thriller about mistaken identity or perhaps getting ensnared in a web of bureaucracy. Yet with clinical detachment it develops into a nerve-flaying story almost too agonizing to endure. Unlike most horror movies, it isn’t ... Read More
Science & Tech

The Real Deal With the Tech Giants

A bit of dialogue from the old television series Person of Interest, where a reclusive billionaire programmer and a former CIA agent use a giant supercomputer to predict crimes and save people: FINCH: Hester's living off the grid. No photos online and nothing on the social networking sites. REESE: I've never ... Read More

Viva l’Italia?

Italy has just had elections, with very interesting results. I wanted to talk with Alberto Mingardi, which I have. He is one of the leading classical liberals in Italy -- the director general of the Bruno Leoni Institute, in Milan. (Mingardi himself is Milanese.) He is also an authority in arts and letters. In ... Read More

Putin and the Cult of Leadership

On Sunday, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin won an unsurprising reelection-campaign victory against Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin, by a margin of 76.7 percent to 11.8 percent. The results were unsurprising because Putin is a tyrant who murders or imprisons political rivals, and who isn’t afraid to use ... Read More

Trump and Brexit Derangement Syndrome

I am not one of those Brexiteers who believe that Brexit and Trumpism are essentially the same phenomenon in two different countries. To be sure, they both draw on some of the same political trends, notably a distrust of elites and an upsurge of popular anger over evident failures of public policy such as illegal ... Read More

Stand Up to Putin

President Putin’s landslide victory in Russia’s presidential election was achieved against the lackluster competition of a group of mediocre candidates from which the sole serious opponent had been excluded; amid plausible allegations that his security services had tried to poison two Russians in England by ... Read More