Corporate-Backed Groups Seek More Pro-Business Judges in the Deep South

Back in 1994, after the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that oil giant BP owed back taxes to Plaquemines Parish, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) urged its member corporations to contact the justices to complain. A few months later, after a LABI-backed candidate won the state Supreme Court election, the court unanimously overturned its ruling against BP — a decision that drained millions of dollars in tax revenue from Plaquemines Parish and its schools.

Before intervening on BP’s behalf, LABI had been complaining about the influence of trial lawyers in judicial elections and threatening to exert more political pressure over judges. LABI had already established four corporate-funded political action committees to exercise its clout in the state legislature; in the mid-1990s, the PACs began giving large contributions to their preferred judicial candidates.

In 1996, LABI took its judicial influence operation to the next level: It began rating judges based on whether they ruled for or against corporate interests. After national media reported on LABI’s aggressive tactics, the group ceased evaluating every justice and stopped pressuring them to rule a certain way in specific cases.

But recently, LABI announced that it was bringing back judicial ratings to evaluate judges’ rulings in the cases that it deems “most critical to the business community.”

A group in Mississippi is getting ready to do the same thing. The new Mississippi Civil Justice Alliance was established by the Business and Industry Political Education Committee (BIPEC), which spends big in judicial races through an affiliated PAC funded by local business groups as well as fossil-fuel interests, such as…

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