Thursday, February 25, 2010

Seminars, conferences, and lunches: oh my

Well, Miami is the hot spot this week for the criminal practitioner:

1. The ABA's White Collar Crime Conference has been going on all week at the Eden Roc. About 1000 defense lawyers and prosecutors show up and try not to look to out of place on South Beach. I'm not sure the Eden Roc knows what to do with such a high nerd factor. The keynote speaker was
Lanny A. Breuer, Assistant Attorney General, who had this to say (via Miami Herald):

"In tackling financial fraud, we are not on a witch hunt,'' Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer told hundreds of lawyers attending his keynote luncheon address at the Eden Roc Renaissance Hotel in Miami Beach.
"We are . . . seeking fairly but firmly to go after criminal conduct where it exists. We also are striving to innovate in how we do business,'' Breuer said. "That could mean utilizing data and intelligence more strategically, or it could mean -- as we've seen in a couple of prominent cases recently -- going undercover.
"However we do it, we will be more targeted, more creative, and more strategic in where and how we look for criminal conduct.''

2. The Federal Defenders and the CJA reps are also having their annual conference here this week. Of course, their digs are a bit more economical: they are staying at the Hyatt downtown.

3. And the Federal Bar Association's South Florida Chapter is hosting two upcoming events in March.

On March 10, 2010, the Federal Bar's monthly luncheon series continues at The Bankers Club in Miami. Honorable Marcia G. Cooke and Kendall Coffey of Coffey Burlington will lead a discussion on: "Trying High Profile Cases - The Realities, Strategies, and Ethical Considerations." The lunch begins at 11:45AM.

On March 16, 2010, the South Florida Chapter is hosting a reception from 5:30PM to 7:30PM at the Wilkie Ferguson Courthouse honoring retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

To join, visit and click on the South Florida Chapter. If anyone has questions about the events, contact Chapter President Bill Roppolo at


Jay Weaver is reporting that the White House has officially nominated Wilfredo Ferrer to be U.S. Attorney of the District:

His résumé was an easy sell: He is a one-time federal prosecutor in Miami and is currently chief of Miami-Dade County's federal litigation section. He's also the former deputy chief of staff to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.
The son of Cuban immigrants also was valedictorian at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High, first in his class at the University of Miami, and president of his class at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
"First of all, he understood better than anybody I've worked with how the federal government works with local and state governments, " Reno said in an earlier interview. "If I wanted to write the book about how to be the U.S. attorney, Willy would be one of my models."
If confirmed by the Senate, Ferrer would replace U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Sloman. Ferrer, 43, married with two sons, would be the fourth lawyer of Cuban descent to fill the prominent job -- but the first appointed by a Democratic president.

Congrats to Willy! Hopefully Kathy Williams' nomination will come soon!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"On October 4, 2010, Elena Kagan Will Ask Her First Question As A Supreme Court Justice"

That's Tom Goldstein over at ScotusBlog, predicting that Justice Stevens will retire and that SG Kagan will take his place. The whole thing is worth a read, but here's the conclusion:

So, here is how I expect the next few months to play out. In the spring, Justice Stevens will announce his retirement. In May or June, the President will nominate Elena Kagan. Explaining that her paper record is a thimble-full of Sonia Sotomayor’s, Senator Leahy will schedule hearings and Senator Reid will schedule a floor vote before the summer recess. The only theme that will give opponents any success is that she fails to express her views on anything. She will then be confirmed by a vote of 61 to 39. Ok, that last prediction about the exact vote could be off by a bit, but I feel pretty confident about everything else.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lew Freeman who?

Lew Freeman finally surrendered today on an information, charging one 20 year count. The best thing that ever happened to Freeman is Scott Rothstein. No one seems to care about this case anymore even though Freeman was as well known as Rothstein. But the losses in this case are only 2.6 million instead of a billion...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sidney Aronovitz Courthouse

The naming ceremony for the federal courthouse in Key West is this morning. It will now be called the Sidney Aronovitz courthouse. Here's the Wiki entry for Judge Aronovitz, who was born in Key West.

Update: Here's two photos from the event from a tipster:

Friday, February 19, 2010

"The great Sony PlayStation caper"

That's the quotable Mike Tein on the new indictment accusing his client and others of exporting video games and other electronic products to a shopping mall in Paraguay that allegedly served as a front to finance the terrorist group Hezbollah. Here's the Herald article and more Mike Tein quotes:

"Believe it or not, this indictment actually charges these gentleman with supporting Hezbollah by shipping them Sony PlayStations,'' Tein said. "I guess that's a new type of weapon of mass destruction.''

Friday news and notes

Well, not much happening here in the District, other than the badly-kept secret that former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor will be sitting on the Eleventh Circuit as a visiting judge in March. That should be fun...

In out-of-district news:

1. Jeffrey Rosen thinks President Obama should be Justice Obama.

2. You gotta read this dissent by Judge Kozinski. Here's a snippet: "It is also the only case I know of, in any jurisdiction covered by the Fourth Amendment, where invasion of the home has been approved based on no showing whatsoever. Nada. Gar nichts. Rien du tout. Bupkes.
Whatever may have been left of the Fourth Amendment after Black is now gone. The visceration of this crucial constitutional protector of the sanctity and privacy of what Americans consider their castles is pretty much complete. Welcome to the fish bowl."

3. And this dissent by 10th Circuit Judge Carlos Lucero: "Were this case simply about an innocent game of canasta, I would readily join the opinion of my majority colleagues outright. However, the abrupt departure of the trial judge from the bench while defense counsel was discussing the testimony of defendant's star witness, when coupled with the court's earlier admonitions to the jury that the same witness's testimony was 'absolutely untrue' and a 'falsity,' can only be interpreted as a clear message to the jury that the witness was not credible or worthy of the court and jury's unbiased consideration." (Apparently, the trial judge left the bench during the defense's closing because it was "his secretary's afternoon to play canasta and he had to get a couple of letters out.") (HT: How Appealing)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Is Justice Kennedy part of the problem for high sentences?

The NY Times has this interesting editorial about Justice Kennedy and his comments criticizing too high sentences being doled out by our justice system:

Justice Anthony Kennedy spoke out against excessive prison sentences this month in California, criticizing the state’s deeply misguided three-strikes law. It was a welcome message, delivered with unusual force. Much of the blame for the law, however, lies with the Supreme Court, which upheld it in a decision on which Justice Kennedy cast the deciding vote.
The overall tone of Justice Kennedy’s address to the Pepperdine University School of Law was “courtly and humorous,” according to The Los Angeles Times. He turned more serious, however, on the subject of incarceration. Sentences in the United States are eight times longer than those handed out in Europe, Justice Kennedy said. California has 185,000 people in prison at a cost of $32,500 each per year, he said. He urged voters and elected officials to compare taxpayer spending on prisons with spending on elementary education.

Justice Kennedy took special aim at the three-strikes law, which puts people behind bars for 25 years to life if they commit a third felony, even a nonviolent one. The law’s sponsor, he said, is the correctional officers’ union, “and that is sick.”

The criticism was on the mark. The state’s prison population has soared as a result of harsh sentencing laws and parole rules. California has been ordered by the courts to bring down the population of its prison system, which is badly overcrowded and unable to provide inmates with adequate medical care.


It’s not that the court is insensitive to excessive punishments. It has repeatedly thrown them out — when they are against corporations. In 2003, the year the court rejected Mr. Ewing’s case, it overturned a $145 million punitive damage award against the State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company as so excessive that it violated the 14th Amendment due process clause.

Justice Kennedy is right that elected officials and voters should pay more attention to overincarceration. But courts also need to do their part by enforcing constitutional prohibitions on excessive punishment in cases involving people, as well as corporations.

The Times is of course correct -- sentences are way too long in this country. More needs to be done to limit them... The pendulum has finally started to swing in this direction with Booker and district judges being given discretion in most cases to fashion appropriate sentences. Now we need to abolish min/mans.

On to other Supreme Court news -- Justice Scalia says there is no right to secede. He said so in a letter to a screenwriter (who happens to be the brother of a law blogger). How cool:

Dan is a screenwriter (whose screenplay Tranquility Base was just named a finalist at the Vail Film Festival, and previously took top honors elsewhere). Back in 2006 he started working on a political farce that had Maine seceding from the United States and joining Canada.

Bro was well ahead of the tea partiers in contemplating impending problems as we racked up massive debt. This doesn't get him an agent or a foot in the door of Hollywood to get his screenplays made into films -- it isn't what you write, but who you know -- but it does make him a prophet of sorts.

So, on a lark, he wrote to each of the 10 Supreme Court justices (including O'Connor) with this request:

I'm a screenwriter in New York City, and am writing to see if you might be willing to assist me in a project that involves a unique constitutional issue.

My latest screenplay is a comedy about Maine seceding from the United States and joining Canada. There are parts of the story that deal with the legality of such an event and, of course, a big showdown in the Supreme Court is part of the story.

At the moment my story is a 12 page treatment. As an architect turned screenwriter, it is fair to say that I come up a bit short in the art of Supreme Court advocacy. If you could spare a few moments on a serious subject that is treated in a comedic way, I would greatly appreciate your thoughts. I'm sure you'll find the story very entertaining.

I told Dan he was nuts. I told him his letter would be placed in the circular file. And then Scalia wrote back. Personally. Explicitly rejecting the right to secede:

I am afraid I cannot be of much help with your problem, principally because I cannot imagine that such a question could ever reach the Supreme Court. To begin with, the answer is clear. If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede. (Hence, in the Pledge of Allegiance, "one Nation, indivisible.") Secondly, I find it difficult to envision who the parties to this lawsuit might be. Is the State suing the United States for a declaratory judgment? But the United States cannot be sued without its consent, and it has not consented to this sort of suit.

I am sure that poetic license can overcome all that -- but you do not need legal advice for that. Good luck with your screenplay.

So there you have it. At least one vote solidly on record as saying that there is no right to secede. And it likely comes from a place the right wing secessionists most wanted to have a vote.

And yes, Dan still needs an agent. Because writing great scripts isn't enough if you don't know The Powers That Be on the other coast. And, for what it's worth, his now-completed script of Maine joining Canada is better than his award-winning one about a mis-adventure in space.

Here's the actual letter. Neat.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Too bad they didn't have Facebook when I was in highschool

Okay, so SFL got us hooked on this Scribd thing, so here goes. Judge Garber issued this very interesting order in a case involving a student who was suspended for starting a Facebook page about the "worst teacher [she] ever met!" The student sued, with the help of the ACLU, saying that she shouldn't have been suspended for exercising her First Amendment rights. The principal filed a motion to dismiss, which Judge Garber denied (for the most part). The student's suit can proceed:

Facebook Order
UPDATE -- The Herald weighs in here:

A student who set up a Facebook page to complain about her teacher -- and was later suspended -- had every right to do so under the First Amendment, a federal magistrate has ruled.

The ruling not only allows Katherine ``Katie'' Evans' suit against the principal to move forward, it could set a precedent in cases involving speech and social networking on the Internet, experts say.

The courts are in the early stages of exploring the limits of free speech within social networking, said Howard Simon, the executive director of the Florida ACLU, which filed the suit on Evans' behalf.

``It's one of the main things that we wanted to establish in this case, that the First Amendment has a life in the social networking technology as it applies to the Internet and other forms of communication,'' Simon said.

SECOND UPDATE -- And here's the NY Times:

Lawyers for Ms. Evans, 19, now a sophomore at the University of Florida, said that they were pleased by the ruling and that they hoped to bring the case to trial in the spring.
One of the lawyers, Maria Kayanan, associate legal director of the
American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said the judge’s decision had clearly extended the protection of First Amendment rights to online writings of a nonthreatening manner.
“This is an important victory both for Ms. Evans and Internet free speech,” Ms. Kayanan said, “because it upholds the principle that the right to freedom of speech and expression in America does not depend on the technology used to convey opinions and ideas.”

Friday, February 12, 2010

BREAKING -- Tom Raffanello acquitted -- by Judge

I'm told that in the middle of jury deliberations, visiting Judge Goldberg issued a judgment of acquittal for Tom Raffanello and his co-defendant. More to come.

UPDATE #1 -- Here's Curt Anderson from the AP on the case.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Federal Bar Judicial Reception

Good times tonight. Most of the judges and magistrates were at the Hyatt for the yearly judicial reception. Apparently before the event, Harvard Law Professors Charles Ogeltree and Alan Dershowitz (oops, apparently Dersh wasn't there) gave a talk to the judges (oops, apparently it was the clerks -- and a few judges also attended) at the courthouse.

SFLawyer has a funny post about the night. On his to do list for the evening:

Find the one judge willing to speak to me (Sam Slom?) and unleash new self-aggrandizing anecdote that reveals my wit, trial skills, wealth, humor, A-type dominance and general good taste.

Who's ready for the long weekend?


Holy cow, was the traffic bad today or what?

The jury is out in the Tom Raffanello case. Here's a piece the Herald article explaining the closings:

While prosecutors charged Raffanello with trying to impede the government's case against the offshore banker, defense lawyers said their client never broke the law because all records in his office were stored electronically on a server.
``They were getting rid of junk,'' said defense lawyer Edward Shohat on Wednesday. ``No one tried to hide anything from anybody.''
Defense lawyers also said documents were routinely shredded at Stanford's security headquarters in Fort Lauderdale because they contained sensitive information on investors and company business partners.
Miami lawyer Richard Sharpstein slammed prosecutors, saying they never inspected the computers storing the office records. ``They didn't even look at what they have,'' he said.
Though Judge Richard W. Goldberg called the government's evidence in the case ``slim,'' he nevertheless allowed the case to go the jury.
Raffanello, wearing the pin of his former DEA agency in his lapel, was surrounded by a cadre of lawyers and former federal agents who showed up to support the veteran narcotics investigator who once led cases against Panama strongman Manuel Noriega and Medellín cartel kingpin Fabio Ochoa.
Prosecutors painted a vastly different portrait of the former lawman, saying he was corrupted by his job as security chief for one of the richest men in the world, and blatantly broke the law by destroying records -- despite a federal investigation.
Raffanello was well aware of an order from the receiver not to destroy any documents when he told Perraud to call in a shredding company, prosecutors said, adding that Raffanello was not in a position to decide which records the government should get.
``Their mantra was not to cooperate, but to frustrate,'' charged prosecutor Jack Patrick, saying Raffanello had destroyed important records and then tried ``to find a reason to justify it.''

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Raffanello Trial: Charges against former DEA chief survive – for now

That's the headline from the DBR:

The defense in Miami maintains the destruction of papers in a 95-gallon bin was part of a routine shredding schedule and that the documents were duplicated on the firm’s computer servers. “The evidence is at best thin,” said visiting Judge Richard Goldberg. He said he would let the trial go forward but may reconsider the request for a directed verdict of acquittal later. The prosecution rested Monday, and the defense called its first witness late this morning. Sitting at the defense table were prominent Miami criminal defense attorneys Richard Sharpstein and Ed Shohat, who jointly argued the motion, as well as former Miami U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey and Jane Moscowitz. Scheduled character witnesses are former Miami U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis and Michael “Pat” Sullivan, deposed Panamanian ruler Manuel Noriega’s lead prosecutor.

It was probably one of the best cert. petitions I have ever read.”

That was former SG Seth Waxman on this cert petition written by a bank-robber named Shon Hopwood for another inmate John Fellers. Cert was granted, and Waxman took over the case, but only if Hopwood would stay involved. Here's the NY Times:

Shon R. Hopwood was not a particularly sophisticated bank robber.
“We would walk into a bank with firearms, tell people to get down, take the money and run,” he said the other day, recalling five robberies in rural Nebraska in 1997 and 1998 that yielded some $200,000 and more than a decade in federal prison.
Mr. Hopwood spent much of that time in the prison law library, and it turned out he was better at understanding the law than breaking it. He transformed himself into something rare at the top levels of the American bar, and unheard of behind bars: an accomplished
Supreme Court practitioner.
He prepared his first
petition for certiorari — a request that the Supreme Court hear a case — for a fellow inmate on a prison typewriter in 2002. Since Mr. Hopwood was not a lawyer, the only name on the brief was that of the other prisoner, John Fellers.
The court received 7,209 petitions that year from prisoners and others too poor to pay the filing fee, and it agreed to hear just eight of them. One was Fellers v. United States.
“It was probably one of the best cert. petitions I have ever read,” said Seth P. Waxman, a former United States solicitor general who has argued more than 50 cases in the Supreme Court. “It was just terrific.”
Mr. Waxman agreed to take the case on without payment. But he had one condition.
“I will represent you,” Mr. Waxman recalled telling Mr. Fellers, “if we can get this guy Shon Hopwood involved.”
Mr. Fellers said sure. “It made me feel good that we had Shon there to quarterback it,” he said.
The former solicitor general showed the bank robber drafts of his briefs. The two men consulted about how to frame the arguments, discussed strategy and tried to anticipate questions from the justices.

Pretty cool stuff! He won other cases too:

The law library changed Mr. Hopwood’s life.
“I kind of flourished there,” he said. “I didn’t want prison to be my destiny. When your life gets tipped over and spilled out, you have to make some changes.”
He was a quick study, but he had a lot to learn.
“In 2000,” he said, “I couldn’t have named a right in the Bill of Rights.”
By 2005, the Supreme Court had granted a second petition prepared by Mr. Hopwood, vacating a lower court decision and sending the case back for a fresh look. Mr. Hopwood has also helped inmates from Indiana, Michigan and Nebraska get sentence reductions of 3 to 10 years from lower courts.
Mr. Hopwood was released from prison in the fall of 2008. Mr. Fellers was out by then, and he owned a thriving car dealership in Lincoln.
“Here,” Mr. Fellers said, presenting his jailhouse lawyer with a 1989 Mercedes in pristine condition. “Thank you for getting me back to my daughter.”

Now Hopwood is working for a Supreme Court printing company:

Mr. Hopwood now works for a leading printer of Supreme Court briefs, Cockle Printing in Omaha.
“What a perfect fit for me,” he said. “I basically get to help attorneys get their briefs polished and perfected.”
His boss at Cockle, Trish Billotte, said she had some misgivings about hiring Mr. Hopwood. It was hard to believe his story, for starters, and it struck her as curious that an aspiring paralegal was driving around in a Mercedes.
But she called Mr. Hopwood’s references, including the former solicitor general. “You don’t get through to Seth Waxman,” Ms. Billotte said. But she did, and Mr. Waxman confirmed the facts and offered his endorsement.
“We did take a risk, but we have no second thoughts,” Ms. Billotte said. “Zero regrets.”
Mr. Hopwood, who is 34, said he hoped to apply to law school next year. Richard Friedman, a law professor at the
University of Michigan who worked with Mr. Hopwood on the briefs for a recent Supreme Court case, said that he had already talked to the admissions office there about saving a spot.
Mr. Hopwood’s personal life is looking up, too. He married in August, and he and his wife had a son on Christmas Day.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Superbowl Monday

Great game; great weekend for Miami. Now what peeps? Who's in trial? What's going on?

Here are a couple of items:

1. Justice Thomas is making the rounds. Here he is speaking at UF Law. Thomas gave a big shout out to a Florida lawyer in his talk. He'll be here in April.

2. Who should Obama nominate for the S.Ct. pick? Let the debate begin.

3. What about the other judges though?

4. More on Alito vs. Obama here.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Who wants to be a Magistrate? (UPDATED TWICE)

Unfortunately, the applicant list and interviews for the open magistrate position were kept secret... That said, the committee acted quickly and cut the list to 5. Now the judges get to pick the next magistrate. I've heard from multiple sources about 4 of the 5 candidates:

1. Jackie Arango (AUSA)
2. Rick Del Toro (AUSA)
3. Jonathan Goodman (Akerman Senterfitt)
4. Daryl Trawick (State Circuit Judge; U.S. Attorney finalist)
5. UPDATE -- well, we got this one wrong, so I am taking it down.... Sorry! I will post it back up when I have the right info! SECOND UPDATE -- Okay, now I got the right person: Alicia M. Otazo-Reyes (Legon Ponce & Fodiman)

If you know who the 5th person is, please email me. (UPDATE -- thanks to all my tipsters!)

So who do you all want for the job?

Four of the five are current or former federal prosecutors...

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

"It has become so partisan, it's really uncomfortable."

That was Justice Thomas, not speaking about the Supreme Court, but instead answering why he doesn't attend the State of the Union. There's lots more in the article, but here's a snippet of the article covering his talk at Stetson Law School:

Race and politics don't appear to be his favorite subjects. But Thomas, one of the most conservative thinkers on the court, didn't shy away from them.
"They don't care that I don't judge a case as a Catholic," he said. "But they yell because I don't judge a case as a black man."
During President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech last week, Justice Samuel Alito appeared to mouth the words "not true" after the president criticized the court's campaign finance decision.
Thomas wasn't at the speech and wouldn't address the issue. Politics, he said, is why he stopped going to the annual address.
"It has become so partisan, it's really uncomfortable for a judge," he said. "There's a lot of things you don't hear on the broadcast.
"You have catcalls and people muttering under their breath."

Justice Thomas will be addressing our District at the Bench & Bar conference in April.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Lots of shredding

The first Allen Stanford trial is underway. From the South Florida Business Journal:

Jury selection is under way this morning in the case against two South Florida men charged with shredding evidence in the case of R. Allen Stanford.
Former Stanford security personnel Bruce Perraud and Thomas Raffanello are the first to go to trial in Miami federal court in what federal prosecutors have alleged is a $7 billion Ponzi scheme led by Stanford and run through his Antigua-based bank.
Perraud, a global security specialist in the Fort Lauderdale office of Houston-based Stanford Financial Group, allegedly oversaw the shredding of documents at a warehouse facility last February. He was
indicted in June.
Raffanello, who once led the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Miami office, worked as a security director for Stanford and is the husband of well-known defense attorney Susan Raffanello, of the Coffey Burlington law firm in Miami.

Interestingly, the case is being tried before visiting judge Richard Goldberg, who told jurors that the trial would last about two weeks.

The first witness testified today that in February 2009, there was more shredding than in any other month. Here's the AP on the first witness.

"A Law for the Sex Offenders Under a Miami Bridge"

Miami is in Time Magazine again. This time for sex offenders living under the bridge:

The Julia Tuttle Causeway is one of Miami's most beautiful bridge spans, connecting the city to Miami Beach through palm-tree-filled islands fringed with red mangroves. But beneath the tranquil expanse sits one of South Florida's most contentious social problems: a large colony of convicted sex offenders, thrown into homelessness in recent years by draconian residency restrictions that leave them scant available or affordable housing. They live in tents and shacks built from cast-off supplies, clinging to pylons and embankments, with no running water, electricity or bathrooms. Not even during a recent cold spell, when nighttime temperatures dropped into the 30s, could they move into temporary lodging.


But with the disturbing bridge colony putting Miami under increased national scrutiny — it has managed the improbable feat of arousing sympathy for pedophiles — Miami-Dade County hopes to return some sanity to the issue. A new law takes effect on Monday that supersedes the county's 24 municipal ordinances, many of which make it all but impossible for offenders to find housing. It keeps the 2,500-feet restriction, but applies it only to schools. It also sets a 300-foot restriction to keep offenders from loitering near anyplace where children gather, which many experts call a more practical solution than harsh residency restrictions.

County officials, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union, hope the law will prod states and perhaps even the U.S. Congress to craft more-uniform laws to prevent the kind of residency-restriction arms race that Florida let local governments wage. "The safety of Floridians has suffered as local politicians have tried to one-up each other with policies that have resulted in colonies of homeless sex offenders left to roam our streets," says state senator Dave Aronberg, a Democrat running for state attorney general. The excessive rules, he adds, "have the effect of driving offenders underground and off law enforcement's radar." Aronberg is co-sponsoring a new bill that would establish uniform statewide residency rules fixed at 1,750 feet — studies show that in many cities, over 50% of available housing is within 2,500 feet of schools — and include the sweeping no-loitering zones.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Monday morning...


As you all know, I'm not a fan of judicial elections. Tony Mauro writes that the recent Citizens United decision might kill judicial elections:

For years now, judicial reform groups have more or less resigned themselves to the reality that the public likes to elect its state judges and will fight any effort to appoint them instead.
The U.S. Supreme Court's Jan. 21 decision in
Citizens United v. FEC may have altered that sober truth -- or at least has given reformers a glimmer of hope that it might. By supersizing possible corporate domination of judicial elections, the thinking goes, the Supreme Court's decision may finally make the public see how unseemly the elections are -- and move toward merit-based selection as an alternative.
"There is a silver lining to the decision," said Ohio Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, who has taken the lead in seeking change in Ohio's elective system for judges. "For those of us who have been trying to impress upon the public the deleterious effects of money in these elections, it helps us make the point that we need to get the money out."
"The time is now for change," said Rebecca Kourlis, former Colorado Supreme Court justice and executive director of the
Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver. "I believe we can revitalize the merit-selection movement."
Kourlis spoke at a Georgetown University Law Center
conference on judicial elections convened on Jan. 26 by retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. In retirement, working with Kourlis and others, O'Connor has become a merit-selection evangelist who energizes the movement by her sheer presence. O'Connor's calendar is dotted with meetings with local good-government groups across the country aimed at jump-starting the effort to change the way state judges are chosen. Currently, O'Connor said, more than 80 percent of state judges have to win a political election to gain or retain their seats.