A recent study has cast serious questions over the influence of campaign contributions on the members of the Louisiana Supreme Court. The study by my former Tulane Law School colleague, Vernon Palmer, and Loyola assistant professor of economics John Levendis finds a disturbing correlation between contributions and voting on the Court. It is only the latest allegation rocking one of our state supreme courts this year. [Update: Tulane has issued an apology for some errors in this study]
The study to be published in the Tulane Law Review is being cited as support for a rule that would require Louisiana Supreme Court members to recuse themselves from deciding cases that involve campaign contributors. Palmer and Levendis studied decisions over the last 14 years.
In 181 civil cases between 1992 and 2006, the nine justices have been significantly influenced by campaign donations in making their decisions, says the study, which is soon to be published in the Tulane Law Review.
. . .
The study found that in 47 percent of the cases reviewed — 85 cases involving total campaign donations of about $400,000 — there was at least one donor before the court who had contributed to a justice’s campaign.
In cases involving a single donor, the study found, Supreme Court justices voted for their contributor’s position, on average, about 65 percent of the time, and no justice voted for his or her contributor’s position less than 55 percent of the time.
According to the report, Chief Justice Pascal Calogero and Associate Justice John Weimer voted for positions advanced by their campaign contributors at much higher levels than the rest of the court: 81 percent and 80 percent of the time, respectively.
When it came to cases in which both sides made campaign donations to the same justice but one side gave more money, the study found that Weimer and Associate Justice Catherine Kimball usually voted for the side that gave the most.
When a defendant was the bigger donor, the analysis showed, Kimball ruled for the defendant’s position 61 percent of the time, and Weimer, 75 percent of the time.
If the plaintiff’s side gave larger amounts, Kimball voted for the plaintiff 67 percent of the time, and Weimer, 90 percent of the time, the study said.
Critics have long cited the influence of such contributions as inimical to the independence and integrity of the state court system. Texas previously faced the same allegations of influence and currently has scandals with regard to some of its members. Click here. Other state supreme courts also face controversies this year. Click here and here
For the story out of Tulane, click here