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Radical progressive billionaire George Soros has spent some $45 million in recent years on efforts to take away power from voters to select judges, a new report released today by the American Justice Partnership reveals.
The report by attorney Colleen Pero was introduced at an event held by the Heritage Foundation. It identified $45 million spent by Soros, who funds a large range of left-wing action groups, to “remake the judiciary and fundamentally change the way judges are selected in the United States.”
“This movement to end citizen participation in state judicial elections has been moving swiftly and silently, below the radar of the citizens who would be impacted by Mr. Soros’ millions,” said Pero in a statement about her report, “and it was time to bring this effort to the public’s attention.”
The American Justice Partnership explained that 39 states now have some form of judicial elections that provide judges be held accountable to the people they serve. However, Soros’ goal has been to convert the procedures into various “merit” selection processes – which mostly have a special panel, often appointed and frequently political – to choose a slate of candidates from which someone, such as a governor, would appoint a judge.
“Under ‘merit selection,’ the power to select judges is transferred from the people (or their elected representatives) to a small commission that is unelected by voters, unaccountable to anyone and comprised primarily of legal elites,” the AJP said. “The commissions typically meet in secret with proceedings closed to the public.”
A critic of “merit selection,” former Michigan Supreme Court chief justice Clifford Taylor, argued elections
“have the virtue, to a greater degree than any other system, and surely more than merit selection does, of allowing the people to rise up and change their courts if they wish to.”
“Such power for our citizens is entirely consistent with this nation’s approach to governance and should not be abandoned for this largely unexamined system of merit selection,” he said.
Working to ‘exclude’ conservatives
The AJP said Soros’ “highly-coordinated, well-funded campaign” was to “exclude conservative, rule-of-law judges from the bench.”
“This multi-million dollar campaign to reshape our courts encompasses efforts to revise state constitutions, rewrite judicial recusal rules, abolish democratic judicial elections, and impose a judicial selection system that will transfer power from the people to a small, unelected and unaccountable commission comprised primarily of legal elites, typically representing powerful special interests groups, such as state trial lawyers associations,” the AJP said.
The report, called “Justice Hijacked: Your Right To Vote Is At Stake,” explained Soros has been using his Open Society Institute to spend money promoting his specialized “commissions” as a way to keep “politics” away from the bench.
While the American Bar Association Journal gushed praise over Soros’ efforts, saying, “Soros may have more impact in those areas than any individual ever,” the report said it should be noted Soros gave $2.6 million to the ABA at the time of the article’s publication in 2000.
Of that, $807,000 was targeted for efforts to “protect judicial independence,” the report documented. Soros later gave the ABA another $4.4 million, with nearly $2 million designated for his special goals.
The report reveals Soros’ work under the banner of the ABA was typical but was just one of his outreaches.
“An analysis of hundreds of documents and websites, foundation and nonprofit IRS Form 990s, reveals that OSI has funneled at least $45.4 million into a highly coordinated campaign to reshape the judiciary and fundamentally change the way judges are chosen in many American states,” the report said. “This figure is almost surely a conservative estimate, for these same organizations have received an additional $52.5 million from OSI to finance a range of activities, some of which, such as ‘general support’ contributions, may be supporting OSI’s judiciary campaign.”
Among the remarkable decisions that have reached headlines in recent weeks include the approval by the U.S. Senate of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, who never had served as a judge and following her appointment has become the subject of a formal fraud complaint for allegedly changing the testimony of a doctor’s organization in documents used in a Supreme Court case.
Another decision that many have described as defying logic came from U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, a reported homosexual, who ruled that California’s state constitutional definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman, which was approved by voters, was unconstitutional.
His ruling determined gender played no role in marriage.
‘There should be no such accountability’
The concept of Soros’ plan was explained by one retired judge quoted in the report: “I do not mean to suggest that elected judges are necessarily unqualified or corrupt, but rather that merit selection is far superior to selection by election, since the voting public does not have the slightest idea which candidates are qualified or what are the qualifications for a good judge. As I have said previously, there is a suggestion that elections should be retained because they make judges accountable to the people, but there should be no such accountability.” (emphasis added)
The report said the effort’s “hardball tactics” start out with a “public” opinion poll that purports to show voters believe judicial decisions are influenced by campaign contributions. Then the poll findings are used to generate media coverage.
State-based organizations then are “recruited” to call for the elimination of “politics” from the judiciary, and lobbyists push lawmakers to change a state’s procedures for selecting judges, the report said.
Additionally, the campaign demonizes opponents.
“Any group, especially within the business community, that defends the democratic election of judges or opposes ‘merit selection’ is instantly demonized as trying to ‘buy’ seats on the state court,” the report said.
The report said Soros’ money has gone to the American Constitution Society for Law & Policy, Georgetown University, Justice at Stake, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, Community Rights Council, ABA Fund for Justice & Education, William J. Brennan Center for Justice, People for the American Way, National Center for State Courts, League of Women Voters Education Fund, National Women’s Law Center, Committee for Economic Development, Alliance for Justice, National Partnership for Woman & Families, National Institute for Money in State Politics, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Center for Investigative Reporting, ACLU, Planned Parenthood and others.
The report cited former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s support for the idea of appointment of judges. It says under the auspices of the University of Denver’s Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, O’Connor works to “provide intellectual cover and political assistance” to the change effort.
Her concept that voters are “too unsophisticated to evaluate judges” was investigated, and the report concluded there was no evidence of that in a review of 30,000 court opinions.
It explained Soros plan would put “elites” in control.
“Winston Churchill once said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. The same could be said about contested judicial elections,” the report said.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that voters in Missouri are being presented this year with a ballot proposal that would do away with “merit selection” in favor of direct judicial elections for judges, “an outcome that would be an embarrassment to many who have pushed the Missouri plan as a model for other states.”