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A blistering new report details how big business and corporate lobbyists are pouring money into state judicial elections across the country and packing the courts with judges who put special interests ahead of the public interest.
The new study — by New York University Law School's Brennan Center for Justice, the National Institute on Money in State Politics, and the Justice at Stake Campaign, a non-partisan reform group — found that a small group of super spenders plays the biggest role, using their money to buy the kind of judges they want hearing their cases. These super spenders are the usual suspects: mainly big business, corporate lobbyists, and trial lawyers.
Also high on the list: a disturbing category called "unknown." In many states, disclosure laws are so weak that special interests can buy judicial elections without the public even finding out.
Why does all this matter? Because as money floods into judicial elections, we are getting courts that are filled with judges whose first loyalty is not to justice — or to the general public — but to insurance companies, big business and other special interests. It's not hard to guess what insurance companies want their judges to do. They want them to rule against people who have been injured — even when they deserve compensation, and they want damage awards to be slashed. Big business wants weak enforcement of laws against discrimination and pollution. On the other side of the political spectrum, trial lawyers want verdicts for plaintiffs — and large damage awards.
The Code of HammurabiIs a well-preserved Babylonian law code, dating to ca. 1780 BC. It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, enacted the code, and partial copies exist on a human-sized stone and various clay tablets.
The Code consists of 282 laws, with scaled punishments, adjusting "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" as graded depending on social status, of slave versus free man. Nearly one-half of the Code deals with matters of contract, establishing for example the wages to be paid to an ox driver or a surgeon.
Other provisions set the terms of a transaction, establishing the liability of a builder for a house that collapses, for example, or property that is damaged while left in the care of another. A third of the code addresses issues concerning household and family relationships such as inheritance, divorce, paternity and sexual behavior.
Only one provision appears to impose obligations on an official;
This provision establishes that a judge who reaches an incorrect decision is to be fined and removed from the bench permanently.