The Knoxville paper, remarking on a Blount Co. judicial election, says "...once elected, judges are mandated to put aside political alliances and allegiance to campaign contributors as they do their job."

We couldn't agree more.

Which is why we are happy to learn that Judge Mike Meares refuses to accept campaign contributions from lawyers because he believes justice should not be "for sale."

In fact, Judge Meares is part of a growing nationwide movement for judicial campaign finance reform, led by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor who is campaigning for massive changes to the way judges get elected.

You can read more about it in a press release after the jump...


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and the State of North Carolina support same approach to judicial campaign funding as Blount County Judge Mike Meares

MARYVILLE, Tenn. – June 30, 2008 – Blount County Circuit Court Judge Mike Meares, who has refused to accept campaign contributions from attorneys, is in good company when it comes to his belief that justice should not be “for sale.” Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is currently campaigning for massive changes to the way judges get elected.

Speaking at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs in Minneapolis early last month, O’Connor said judicial independence is the “crown jewel” of democracy, but easier to damage or destroy than most can imagine. “The appearance of outside influence on judges has to be avoided,” O’Connor said.

In November of last year, O’Connor wrote an editorial for The Wall Street Journal titled “Justice For Sale,” where she charged that outside money threatens the integrity of the courts.

“Judicial elections, which occur in some form in 39 states, are receiving growing attention from those who seek to influence them,” O’Connor wrote. “In fact, motivated interest groups are pouring money into judicial elections in record amounts. Whether or not they succeed in their attempts to sway the voters, these efforts threaten the integrity of judicial selection and compromise public perception of judicial decisions.”

O’Connor said that as spending rises, public confidence in the judiciary declines. She wrote, “Most of this money comes from special interest groups who believe that their contributions can help elect judges likely to rule in a manner favorable to their causes.” She said nine out of 10 people surveyed in Pennsylvania regard judicial fund-raising as evidence that justice is for sale, and many judges – including Meares – agree.

Judicial campaign finance reform, similar to what Meares is practicing by not accepting any campaign donations from attorneys, is gaining momentum nationwide. Just last month, neighboring North Carolina’s Appellate Court upheld the state’s public financing program for appellate judicial campaigns.

Of the North Carolina ruling, Deborah Goldberg, Democracy Program Director at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, said, “This is an extremely important decision for the battle to protect our elective state courts from the undue influence of money.

“This ruling preserves a campaign finance system that protects appellate judicial candidates in North Carolina from going hat in hand to the very parties and lawyers who appear before them in court.”

A new study released by the Brennan Center for Justice states, “The ethics and integrity of a judge should be beyond reproach. Accepting contributions from attorneys and the organizations representing them crosses a line and brings the impartiality of our judicial system into question.” The study also says judicial candidates should lead the way in campaign ethics; not be beholden to the lawyers who may appear before them.

Meares, who has been an independent voice in the Blount County Courts – choosing to conduct the court’s administrative business in an open courtroom and challenging previous Blount County practices – promised early in his campaign to accept no contributions from attorneys to avoid the appearance of influence and uphold the integrity of the Blount County Courts.

To date, Meares is the only local judicial candidate to follow the advice of Justice O’Connor and take a leading role locally in this national trend.

For more information about Blount County Judge Mike Meares, contact Rick Laney at (865) 300-4538 or Judge Mike Meares’ Campaign Headquarters (865) 865-681-0553.

Your beloved Judge just

Your beloved Judge just sentenced a man to eight years in prison for murdering a bicyclist with his automobile. Nice. We need more men like this.

You people truly are a joke.

Lester

Hmmm

Question to Phinney: How much time did the late Senator Carl Koella get for killing a man on a motorcycle with his car?

Answer, to save Phinney Google-time: 30 hours community service.

Besides, wasn't the 8 years that you feel is not enough part of a plea bargain?

"Men are equal; it is not birth but virtue that makes the difference." --Voltaire

Nice try

Sorry Andy that Koella issue happened more then 25 minutes ago. Moot point.

Your point?

Are you pointing to bad behavior to justify other bad behavior?

Your point is moot since I was appalled by the Koella situation from the beginning. The Koella debacle was even more outrageous since he served no jail time. However, Koella’s punishment (or lack thereof) clearly matters not when speaking to this individual case. This was not an accident. This bicyclist was killed by a man driving recklessly. You cannot make the argument that driving while possibly under the influence, hitting someone with a vehicle, and then leaving the scene warrants a mere 8 years in jail.

You people were so outraged when Koella literally got away with murder. Yet, you seem to be content with a man going to jail for a mere 8 years for killing someone in the same manner.

Meares believed Carroll’s actions to be criminal. Meares also believed that even if Carroll’s actions were medically related, he still had prior warnings not to drive. Therefore, even though Meares believed that Roth’s death was the direct result of Carroll’s criminal wrong doing, Meares still believed that the rest of what would have been Roth’s life was only worth 8 years of Carroll’s life. And that’s the kind of man you want sitting on the bench. Amazing!

Lester

For what it's worth

For what it's worth, which to you is probably nothing. Given the current sentencing guidelines provided for judges, perhaps that was the max. If it were to be exceeded, it would immediately be overturned on appeal.

Or again as Andy implied above, was this a plea bargain? If so, the sentence, or lack thereof, falls on the DA.

I'm pretty sure...

That if you look thru the stories about the case, you will find it was a plea bargain. I don't know who is responsible for those, if not the DA.

"Men are equal; it is not birth but virtue that makes the difference." --Voltaire

Nice to See ....

Dear Lester Phinney,

It is nice to see your showing some respecting for the life of the born.

Forrest Erickson


One Penney. Before the United States of America was sent to the back.

I'm told it was the maximum

I'm told it was the maximum sentence under sentencing guidelines.

Meares not accepting campaign contributions from lawyers

Greetings all on this Fourth of July:

Preliminary Statement:

I am not a part of the campaign of Mike Meares and do not know David Duggan personally or by reputation. I only know from whom Judge Duggan has accepted contributions for his campaign, and I have read his highly partisan website. I don't own anyone anything except my clients who I owe a duty of zealous representation and to the rules of professional conduct: that doesn't necessary make me the most popular lawyer locally, but I haven't missed any sleep worrying about what my detractors think of me.

That being said, I admire Judge Meares for following an emerging national trend of not accepting campaign contributions from lawyers. Judges can and will tell you that s/he is not influenced by campaign contributions when trying and deciding lawsuits.

As a proponent of the "blink" concept, choice theory and the unseen order of things, I believe that judges are influenced and biased, at least subconsciously, by lawyers and political leaders who contribute to their campaigns. My belief, apparently shared by Sandra Day O'Connor (who knows a whole lot more about this issue than do I), is that accepting such monetary contribution taints the entire judiciary.

Apparently, public confidence in the judiciary is at an all time low-locally and nationally: it is any wonder?

Phinney, you appear to be the master of distraction. Judge Meares' rulings have nothing to do with judicial campaign reform. For trying to make this serious topic into a wholly separate issue regarding an individual ruling of which you seem to have little knowledge, you taint the judicial campaign contribution discussion.

I will defend your right to voice your opinion, but in turn I will voice mine: You appear to be a person similar to many (but not all) that I have met in Blount County who want to tear the community apart as opposed to bringing the community together. Those persons are in power in Blount County and represent an elitist group of individuals who apparently think that they collectively know everything that is good for Blount County.

Personally, I believe that new voices arising in the mix is a welcome and necessary addition to the political dialogue in Blount County. I travel widely, and have heard unsolicited comments about the failure of elected officials to follow the statutes and rules of the state and local government. Blount County is considered a backwater and a transparent political mess. Blount County has so much more potential than is presently being utilized.

Any time you'd like to debate, let's call Harry Grothjahn and see if he will moderate a discussion between you and I on the radio. Or in public forum. Or anywhere.

Let me know. I'm easy to find. And, if you question my desire to see the best of Blount, please know that though I live in Knoxville and my direct ancestors built the Mabry-Hazen House in 1858, my family has had a cabin in Sunshine since about 1903. If you do not know where Sunshine is located, let me know, and I will inform you.

My best to all and to the first amendment to the constitution of the United States. It is, after all, the first amendment: first for a reason.

The comment says "...once elected, judges are mandated to put aside political alliances and allegiance to campaign contributors as they do their job" applies to this situation. Of course, how can a judge running for election put aside "political alliances and allegiance to campaign contributors" when s/he accepts such contributions? Such a belief is incongruous to rational thinking.

TFM

Thomas F. Mabry
P. O. Box 52385
Knoxville, TN 37950

Fax 1-888-215-3119
Phone 1-865-671-0598

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