Dacatur Daily Talks To Supreme Hopeful Al Johnson

You can read it here.

He thinks the current court is biased in favor of business interests:

“This is probably the most activist Supreme Court in the history of the state of Alabama,” Johnson said. “The court appears to me to have formed the opinion that you cannot be pro-business and pro-consumer at the same time. I say, you don’t have to be anti-consumer to be pro-business.”

If I had one wish, it would be never again to hear any version of the phrase “activist court.” Meaningless, meaningless, all uses are meaningless.

That said, I really don’t know if you can call this court pro-business or anti-consumer. I don’t do a lot of civil litigation, so I may not be the best person to ask, but in my experience, a civil plaintiff has a much better chance at a fair hearing in an Alabama court than in a federal court. The current court is all big business types, but in the civil area they also strike me as conservative in the good sense: Making decisions based on the law and facts in front of them and letting the chips fall where they may.

I agree with this statement, though:

Whether or not the millions of dollars pouring into State Supreme Court campaigns affect justices’ decisions, candidate Al Johnson believes those millions create an unacceptable perception of justice for sale.

Johnson, a Democratic challenger who has not received a piece of the millions, is challenging incumbent Justice Lyn Stuart, who has.

“Common sense tells you that these folks who are spending this kind of money want someone on the court that shares their perspective,” Johnson said at a recent editorial board meeting at THE DAILY. “Otherwise, they’re not going to pour that kind of money into somebody’s race.”

Johnson blames the system as much as the candidates.

“We expect judges to be unbiased and fair, but we require them to participate in bitterly partisan politics in order to get elected,” Johnson complained. “That’s asinine.”

Our method of choosing judges does make it look like justice is for sale. I’ve heard it said that it is easier to buy a justice than a legislature. Now I disagree with Johnson about any of our current justices actually being bought by a particular group, but he is right that the perception is there. It is certainly natural to wonder why these groups would spend millions unless they expected favorable results. Or what a justice would do when a supporter came before him. 

Those questions make people look at the judiciary as just another political tool. That, in turn, causes contempt for the law. It becomes just another tool for the powerful, rather than a neutral arbiter.

As for particularly bad results, we’ve been lucky so far, but it is only a matter of time before something truly egregious occurs.

So, once again, I’ll stump for the State Bar’s selection plan. It keeps judges accountable while removing them from the political fights.

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5 Comments on “Dacatur Daily Talks To Supreme Hopeful Al Johnson”

  1. Dan Says:

    Johnson’s campaign spammed several Alabama bloggers a few weeks ago putting comments like — “Vote for Al Johnson.”

    At least I assume it was his campaign.

  2. wheeler Says:

    i feel left out. just for that i’m endorsing his opponent.

  3. Dystopos Says:

    “Activist Judge” is a trade mark of Karl Rove Associates, political consultants.

  4. Hadrian Says:

    You may not call the Supreme Court pro-business, but I sure can. Being conservative is not a problem provided that you follow the law in doing so. The current court, however, is starting to bend or break the rules in order to arrive at desired results.

    Example A — the recent case of Ware v. Timmons. There the Court reversed a plaintiff’s verdict in a medical malpractice case, based on reasoning that the parties never raised before the trial court and never raised before the Surpreme Court itself. That’s a no-no. An appellate court is never supposed to reverse a trial court’s decision on a ground never raised before the trial court, and an appellate court is never supposed to base its decision on a ground not raised by a party on appeal.

    It’s an egregious decision, and it’s not alone. There are a number of recent decisions in which the majority bases its rulings on grounds never properly preserved by the appealing party, as the dissent points out. When this happens, moreover, the party that benefits is always a defendant corporation or a doctor. I’ve yet to see a case of such activism by this court work to a plaintiff’s benefit.

  5. Wheeler Says:

    Hadrian,

    i’ll defer to your knowledge, like i said, i don’t read very many civil cases.

    i will say that i have lost cases in the court of criminal appeals on issues the state never raised. it’s very frustrating to have to fight two opponents.


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