Your June 11 editorial, "Strings attached," mischaracterizes the majority opinion in the recently decided U.S. Supreme Court case

Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co.

The court didn't rule "for the first time that big campaign contributions can influence the outcome of a trial." It specifically didn't address whether such bias occurred. It did establish an unworkable "probability of bias" standard for state courts to separately determine recusal standards. The distinction is important, because it highlights the limited impact of the case, which Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote was based on "extreme" facts.

The real impact of this ruling is likely to be a chilling of speech, because citizens have now been told to restrain their speech in support of candidates for the judiciary, or else they may be denied the opportunity to have a hearing in front of that judge. This turns judicial elections into something inferior to those for other offices, without the same First Amendment rights for citizens as in other races.

The ruling also creates significant opportunities for gaming the system, because now if someone doesn't want a particular judge to hear his case, there's a good chance all he has to do is run enough negative ads against the judge in his election campaign. The Supreme Court clearly missed the mark in this ruling.

Sean Parnell


Center for Competitive Politics