Prof. James Sample Writes Invited NBC News Op-Ed on Big Money’s Influence in the Courts

James Sample , Professor of Law

Professor James Sample published the invited op-ed “West Virginia’s High Court Corruption Just the Tip of the Iceberg When It Comes to Big Money’s Judicial Influence” on Aug. 16 in the NBC News opinion section, THINK.

In the op-ed, Professor Sample cautions against the “tragic consequence of big money’s increasing judicial influence: we all suffer — including interest groups — when decisions reinforce suspicions that the biggest donor, not the best case, wins.” He also calls for preemptive reforms ranging from commission-based appointment systems to publicly financed campaigns to more rigorous recusal rules.

Whatever direction the partisan pendulum may be swinging at any given moment in the constituent branches of state and federal governments, courts are responsible for delivering on the fundamental promise that is quite literally engraved on many of their physical edifices: Equality Under Law. The counter-majoritarian role of the courts serves as a valuable check, protecting unpopular but important rights from the excesses of pure majority rule.

Increasingly, however, America’s courts are failing to check themselves. Legislative and executive attacks on judicial independence are serious matters, but at the same time, the judiciary cannot be given a free pass merely because it is the judiciary. Judicial legitimacy derives directly from judicial restraint and integrity. And when the courts fail to police themselves, the cries of judges lamenting the intervention of other branches ring hollow.

Read the full op-ed on the NBC News THINK website.

Professor Sample was also quoted in the Aug. 14 NBC News story “Impeachment of Entire West Virginia Supreme Court Draws Cry of ‘Partisan Witch Hunt.’ ” His comments appear in the two concluding paragraphs.

Read the full article on the NBC News website.