Spotlight on State Supreme Courts

When the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling, or has a vacancy to be filled, the politics of the Court face close scrutiny. What judicial philosophies and interpretive approaches are Justices following? How do their views impact judicial decisions? What is the policy impact of the partisan balance of power? These questions are neglected, though, when it comes to state Supreme Courts.

New York: June 2021

Cuomo’s Nominee to New York’s Highest Court Alarms Criminal Justice Reformers

Progressives are warning that the governor’s appointment of the Nassau County district attorney would intensify the court’s pro-prosecution bent.

Washington: March 2021

Landmark Rulings Show ‘Untapped Potential’ of State Courts To Advance Civil Rights

An emboldened progressive majority on Washington State’s highest court struck down a law that criminalized drug possession and expanded restrictions on life without parole.

California: Oct. 2020

Governor Newsom Adds Another Prosecutor to the California Supreme Court

The state has not had a justice with experience as a public defender since the mid-1980s.

North Carolina: Oct. 2020

Civil Rights Loom Large in North Carolina’s Supreme Court Elections

The race for chief justice, between a former public defender and a former prosecutor, will shape the court’s willingness to advance racial justice.

Wisconsin: April 2020

In Wisconsin, Liberal Challenger Wins Despite Voting Restrictions and Tough-on-Crime Playbook

Jill Karofsky ousted a conservative Supreme Court Justice in an election marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, poll closures, and missing absentee ballots.

Washington: April 2020

A New Supreme Court Justice Could Swing Criminal Justice Decisions in Washington

What newly-appointed G. Helen Whitener does next will shape whether Washington State moves in a more progressive direction.

Wisconsin: April 2020

Tuesday’s Supreme Court Race Is the Latest Chapter in Wisconsin’s Heated Power Struggle

But one candidate wants voters to forget the beliefs and career record driving his jurisprudence, with criminal justice at issue.

National: March 2020

Some Supreme Courts Are Helping Shrink Jails to Stop Outbreaks. Others Are Lagging Behind.

In several states, supreme courts issued direct orders to reduce arrests and release people over the past week.

Illinois: March 2020

Courts Set Policy and an Illinois Candidate Wants to Finally Talk About It

“In some cases we need the Illinois Supreme Court to use its policy making powers to make criminal justice reform real,” said Daniel Epstein, a candidate in Tuesday’s election.

Florida: Dec. 2018

Looming Appointments Could Alter Florida Supreme Court’s Sentencing Outlook

The jurisprudence around the death penalty should be heavily affected.