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Diverted by the fistfight at the top of the state’s ballot, Alabama’s judicial races have been plodding along through the 2002 campaign negating all predictions that this Alabama Supreme Court race would be the most vicious ever. All the ingredients were in place: large contributions from out-of-state special interests, a single statewide high court race that pitted the controversial poster boy for muddy judicial politics against the chairman of the state ethics commission and a U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows judicial candidates to discuss issues freely. But none of those factors has led to the expected donnybrook. It hasn’t always been like this. Invigorated by multimillion-dollar verdicts in the early 1990s, Alabama businessmen squared off against the state’s trial lawyers and pumped millions of dollars into once quiet judicial elections. By the end of the 2000 election, all but one of the targeted Democrats on the nine-member high court and the five-member intermediate Court of Civil Appeals had been replaced by conservatives espousing pro-business stances. GENTLEMANLY PROMISES The blistering personal invective that was the hallmark of recent contests has been replaced by the gentlemanly promise to be “tough but fair,” the message of traditional campaigns. Tort reform has disappeared as an issue, at least for now. Incumbent Justice Harold See, 58, won his seat in 1996 after overcoming an ad that portrayed him as a skunk that said, “Some things you can smell a mile away.” Earlier this year, the Republican was suspended and nearly lost his seat on the bench for lying about his opponent’s record in the 2000 election. This time around, See’s television advertising featured cherubic young girls and the words, “Children are a gift from God.” Freed by the U.S. Supreme Court to talk about issues, See has limited his speeches to bragging about joining “opinions allowing an unborn child legal representation” and writing a decision that protects a controversial constitutional provision against establishing a state lottery. “A judicial conservatist does what is right regardless of what the constitution or law says,” See told the Troy, Ala., Rotary Club on Oct. 8. His Democratic opponent is insurance defense litigator James H. Anderson, 48, name partner in Beers, Anderson, Jackson, Nelson, Hughes & Patty in Montgomery. The closest that Anderson, also chairman of the state ethics commission, has come to attacking See has been to release the 17 decisions in many of which See wrote the sole dissent, saying that Alabama’s unusually conservative supreme court did not go far enough in protecting the rights of business and industry. Otherwise, Anderson has focused on his family’s having lived in Alabama for seven generations, a backdoor jibe at See. Bill O’Connor, president of the Business Council of Alabama, says a particularly bitter and vitriolic gubernatorial race, in which both candidates are expected to spend $10 million each, has siphoned off money and resources from lower-ballot races. Judicial candidates “haven’t the resources that they have had in the past,” he says. O’Connor says the much vaunted television campaign by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in which the group promised to spend $25 million in several states including Alabama to promote tort reform, has amounted to little. “Controling health care costs has replaced tort reform as the major priority for our members,” he says.

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