Cash in the Courtroom: Hugh Caperton’s Personal View
By Charlie Hall
February 4, 2011
One of the greatest challenges in discussing fair, impartial courts is putting a human face to the issue. Protecting the courts is clearly important, but who really is affected when the scales of justice are tilted by special interest money?
Last week, Hugh Caperton presented one of the most eloquent answers I have ever heard. Speaking at a Justice at Stake dinner in Washington, Caperton spoke of how a dispute between two coal mining companies led to the landmark Supreme Court case, Caperton v. Massey. And he laid out how the seemingly theoretical issue of special-interest influence in the courthouse can have a shattering impact on real lives.
In one particularly touching sequence, Caperton thanked James Sample, then a Brennan Center for Justice counsel and now a Hofstra University law professor, who befriended Caperton during the marathon legal case:
I am sorry that James Sample couldn’t be here tonight. I owe so much to this man. His efforts while at the Brennan Center in bringing together and coordinating this array of diverse business, judicial and advocacy groups in support of our Supreme Court argument went above and well beyond the call of duty. I am forever grateful to his continued support.
James and I have had many discussions about the issues facing all of us in this cause. … The one thing I am in his ear constantly about and I’m sure he gets tired of hearing it, is the need to somehow, some way educate the public in a way that brings the issue of fair courts into the mainstream much as the debates over unemployment, national security and illegal immigration dominate headlines today.
To read the full article, visit gavelgrab.org.