Comedian John Oliver tackled the issue of judicial elections on “Last Week Tonight” Sunday, screening a series of “downright horrifying” campaign ads for judges and examining how campaign considerations distort judges’ rulings.
Some 85 percent of state judges in America are elected, which requires them to run political campaigns, Oliver noted. Jurists tend to rule more harshly during election years because they want to be perceived as tough on crime.
“That’s terrifying,” Oliver said. “You shouldn’t be sitting in a prison going, ‘How did you get 15 months for public urination?’ ‘Well, you know, it was October in an election year. I should have known what I was getting into.'”
Oliver also noted that judges running for office ask lawyers for campaign donations, a situation he called “the definition of a conflict of interest.”
“Think about it: Giving money to judges wouldn’t be acceptable in a state-fair squash-growing competition!” he said.