INSTITUTE INDEX: The Big Money crisis facing state supreme courts

Special-interest money is pouring into state supreme court races at an unprecedented clip, raising concerns about judicial integrity. (Public domain photo.)

Number of cases the U.S. Supreme Court decides each year: about 100

Number of cases state courts decide each year: about 100 million

Year in which state supreme court elections began changing from low-key races where little money was spent to highly politicized contests costing millions of dollars: 2000

Total amount contributed to state supreme court candidates throughout the 1990s: $83.3 million

Amount contributed between 2000 and 2009: $206.9 million

Unprecedented sum spent by special-interest groups on TV ads for state supreme court seats in 2016: $20 million

Percent increase in TV ad spending that represents over the 2012 election cycle: 50

Percent of that total spending done by independent outside groups as opposed to the candidates themselves: 55

Previous number of election cycles where outside spending exceeded candidate spending in state supreme court races: 0

In states where at least 10,000 ads for judicial races aired, percent increase in the likelihood of supreme court justices voting against a criminal defendant's appeal for every doubling of the ads' airings: 8

Since 2004, number of states where there's been a supreme court race where spending exceeded $1 million: 19

Total spending in the 2016 election for two seats on the Arkansas Supreme Court: $1.2 million

For two seats on the Louisiana Supreme Court: $2.2 million

In the most recent election cycle, portion of interest group spending on state judicial races that came from groups which don't fully disclose their donors: nearly all

Of all the outside TV spending on state judicial races in the latest election cycle, percent coming from groups that fully disclose their donors: 4

For every $10,000 in contributions from a partisan source, percent increase in a judge's likelihood to vote in a partisan way, on average: 3

Percent more likely that Republican judges, who favor their own party in election cases by a statistically significantly greater margin than Democratic judges, will cast partisan votes in such cases: 36 to 38

(Click on figure to go to source.)