WASHINGTON, D.C., November 9, 2022 – In Tuesday’s elections, voters across the country had the chance to weigh in on who will serve on several of our nation’s state supreme courts. These courts are as important as ever, serving as the final word on questions of abortion rights, access to democracy, criminal justice reform, access to justice, and the environment.
There were significant victories for equal justice in Tuesday’s races. In Michigan, Justice Richard Bernstein retained his seat on the Michigan Supreme Court, and there is a key opportunity to appoint runner-up Kyra Harris Bolden to a remaining vacant seat. In Montana, Justice Ingrid Gayle Gustafson retained her seat. And in Kansas, the justices who had previously ruled that Kansas’s constitution protects access to abortion retained their seats despite efforts to oust them. It likewise appears Illinois will secure a Democratic supermajority on its Supreme Court, which will help ensure abortion access continues in the state, where there is heavy demand from the many surrounding Midwest states where millions are now being forced to carry even dangerous pregnancies to term.
However, there were setbacks, particularly in states that had explicitly partisan judicial elections. In North Carolina, Republicans Trey Allen and Richard Dietz won their races, which will flip the Court from a 4–3 Democratic majority to a 5–2 Republican majority. In Ohio, Republicans Pat DeWine, Pat Fischer, and Sharon Kennedy won their races, cementing a Republican majority on the Ohio Supreme Court. This does not bode well for ongoing fights in North Carolina or Ohio regarding both abortion access and free and fair elections.
Alliance for Justice Action Campaign Legal Director for State Courts Jake Faleschini issued the following statement:
“Voters are awakening to how vital our state courts are to preserving the rights and protections we hold so dear. With unprecedented turnout during a midterm election, voters in states like Michigan, Illinois, and Kansas turned out to elect or retain judges who have demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and equal justice.
“Unfortunately, Tuesday also saw conservatives solidify control of several important state courts. If the U.S. Supreme Court is going to keep dismantling federal civil rights and protections, we must continue to fight for state courts that will uphold them instead. We took an important step in that direction Tuesday, but we have a lot more work ahead to help voters understand the crucial role these courts play. If states are going to be increasingly relied upon to serve as laboratories of democracy, the fight must continue to ensure state courts are ready to protect the freedoms promised by that democracy. With crucial state supreme court races coming up in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in 2023, we must all start working now to secure victories in those states.”