Don’t Let Powerful Special Interests Have Their Way with Our Courts

On Thursday, WV Citizens for Clean Elections partners and allies spoke out against proposed legislation to create an intermediate court of appeals in a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. SB 275 will likely make it out of Judiciary today; messages to House Finance to are needed to stop it.

The West Virginia Legislature cannot justify the expense of creating a new layer of judicial bureaucracy, which is what SB 275 would do by establishing an intermediate court of appeals. 

There’s a reason West Virginia is one of 10 states without an active intermediate court: Total appeals in West Virginia have declined by nearly 70% from 3,569 in 1999 to only 1,139 in 2018.  This decline is four times the national average. 

The millions that would be wasted on this unnecessary court could be better spent on things that help our families and communities thrive—fixing our roads, improving our schools and providing job training for West Virginia workers. 

Click here to tell committee members to invest the money that would be wasted on an unnecessary intermediate court on things West Virginia needs.

However, in addition to the state’s spending priorities, West Virginians should also be concerned about the millions that special interest groups will undoubtedly spend to pack this new court.

In West Virginia, we’ve seen firsthand the impact big money has in judicial elections. In 2018, special elections for two seats on the Supreme Court saw $3.7 million in spending. According to a recent report by the Brennan Center of Justice, powerful interest groups vastly outspent the candidates they supported, accounting for 2/3 of every dollar spent. 

What’s more, most of this spending was hidden in the shadows because West Virginia’s current campaign finance laws allow groups that spend money to influence our elections to hide the identity of their donors, making it impossible for voters to know who was trying to influence the election or future court decisions.

Special interest groups spending big bucks on these elections see the Supreme Court as an effective vehicle to further their political, ideological, or financial agendas. Why would this new court be any different?

Courts are powerful and they matter. Don’t let powerful special interests have their way with our courts. Too much is at stake. Tell House Finance to say NO to SB 275 and support increased transparency in our elections and other important reforms that help ensure that judges aren’t merely politicians in robes. 

The last thing West Virginia needs is an intermediate court of appeals. 

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