The 2016 elections are over. But what did we learn from the results? Over the past 11 months, Life of the Law’s team of reporters, editors and scholars have been taking a hard took at how money and an increase in spending by special interest groups has played a role in the outcome of elections for judges on state supreme courts. Ultimately, the outcomes of those races may impact our shared access to our state courts, courts that represent fairness in the law and the highest ideals of justice.

We are presenting all five stories in our A Fair Fight for a Fair Court series, with updates, in two hour-long special feature episodes. The first hour is being presented on November 29th. Part two will be presented on December 13. 


Let’s begin Part 1 with Reporter Ashley Cleek’s story Revolution in a Cornfield.

In Kansas this election year, five of the state’s seven supreme court justices were on the ballot. In November, voters in the state decided to retain all five, but they grappled with issues more fundamental than whether the five justices were fair and efficient at their jobs. The Kansas Supreme Court and the justices were at the center of a historic fight between the three branches of Kansas state government. And that fight centered around Kansas’s ever-tightening budget — how much it truly costs, and how much the state would spend — to education children.  

We’ll also hear Jonathan Hirsch’s report Rig the System on the challenges faced by voters in Ohio over who to elect to their state supreme court. Our story explores how the decisions made in the voting booth will decide such local concerns and issues as who can drill for oil in Ohio, and where.


A Fair Fight for a Fair Court: Election Year Special – Part 1 was reported by Ashley Cleek and Jonathan Hirsch and edited by Annie Aviles and Nancy Mullane, with sound design and production by Shani Aviram and Tony Gannon. Our post production editors are Kirsten Jusewicz-Haidle, Rachael Cain and Alyssa Bernstein. We want to thank members of our Advisory Panel of Scholars and our Advisory Board Brittny Bottorff, Ellen Horne and Osagie Obasogie for their support. Howard Gelman and Katie McMurran were our engineers.

Music in this episode is from Blue Dot Sessions.

Special thanks to Michael Leachman, Director of State Fiscal Research at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.


This episode of Life of the Law was funded in part by grants from the Open Society Foundations, the Law and Society Association, the Proteus Fund, the Ford Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.

A Fair Fight for a Fair Court: Election Year Special – Part 1 was sponsored by HSBC.

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