The Louisiana Supreme Court: Interpreting the Law or Making Policy?
September 17, 2008John S. Baker, Jr., Jason Dore
In anticipation of the elections this year for two seats on the Louisiana Supreme Court, the Tulane Law Review has published an article entitled, The Louisiana Supreme Court in Question: An Empirical and Statistical Study of the Effects of Campaign Money on the Judicial Function. That article suggests that a relationship may exist between campaign contributions by litigants and the votes of particular justices in cases involving those contributors. Unsurprisingly, this article has generated controversy in Louisiana’s legal circles and beyond. Both the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the New York Times published pieces detailing the claims of the law review article. Retiring Chief Justice Pascal F. Calogero, Jr. vigorously attacked the Tulane article and sought to defend the Court’s reputation. The Chief Justice issued statements, wrote letters to the editor and used the official Louisiana Supreme Court website to promote articles rebutting and critiquing the
Tulane article. The controversy has become a campaign issue.
This White Paper does not address the assertions made by the Tulane Law Review article. The controversy surrounding that article, however, does highlight the broader issue examined here, namely the role and the jurisprudence of the Louisiana Supreme Court within Louisiana’s government of separated powers. Regardless of whether particular justices have decided cases on the basis of campaign contributions (which is unproven), is it not also improper for judges to reach results based not on their good-faith attempts to apply the law fairly as it exists, but on what they think the law should be?