Judge: I'm 'Mortified' by What It Took to Win Seat

Alabama's Sue Bell Cobb says money is fouling our justice system
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 6, 2015 1:41 PM CST
Judge: I'm 'Mortified' by What It Took to Win Seat
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb in 2011.   (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Sue Bell Cobb served as chief justice on Alabama's Supreme Court from 2007 to 2011, and while this may be a shining personal achievement for her, Cobb is also "mortified" by what she had to do to win the seat. Essentially, beg for money. As she explains in Politico Magazine in an essay about "how money is ruining America's courts," Cobb had to raise $2.6 million in order to beat her Republican opponent in a red state. That meant calls to lawyers who would someday appear before her, businesses, you name it. Cobb would begin with schmoozing, then hand the phone over to her finance director to talk dollar specifics. She insists she never made a decision based on a donation, but "no one is immune from these pressures. Not even me."

It's not how our justice system should operate, writes Cobb, but it's the reality. Businesses will throw money at judges who share their views, and labor unions will do the same. By the time cases reach the court, the outcome is predictable—depending on which camp won the election. What to do? "Let’s start with nonpartisan elections, the public financing of judicial campaigns ... and merit-based selection of judges, a system that can include nonpartisan screening commissions, gubernatorial appointment, and retention elections," writes Cobb. "Judges are not, and never should be, like ordinary politicians." Click for her full column. (Read more judges stories.)

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