95: Judges v. Attack Ads

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Judges across the country are in a fight to keep their jobs. You see, Unlike judges appointed to federal courts, many state judges have to run in elections to either get voted onto the court or keep their seat on the bench after they’ve been appointed… that means they have to convince voters to vote for them. So they do what candidates in elections do: they go to state fairs, they shake hands, they kiss babies and they spend hours on the phone fundraising. And now, they dodge harsh attacks.

Fifteen years ago, judges were pretty  much  exempt from attack ads like this one.  But today independent groups pour millions of dollars into state judicial races and fund attack ads hoping to influence voters, one way or another. In this fifth and final part of our series A Fair Fight for A Fair Court, Jess Engebretson reports on how the rise of attack ads affects our justice system.


Judges v. Attack Ads was reported by Jess Engebretson and edited by Ibby Caputo, with sound design and production by Tony Gannon. Our Post Production Editors are Kirsten Jusewicz-Haidle and Rachael Cain. Special thanks to Benjamin Hardy for his help with reporting this episode. Howard Gelman was our engineer.

We’d also like to thank Professor James Gibson of Washington University in St. Louis for his scholarly advice about judicial elections.

Music in this episode is from the Audio Network.