Gavel_4 When it comes to big spending in judicial elections, Alabama is pretty much the biggest. It's at or near the top of the list in both overall spending and in TV advertising for state judicial races.

In 1995, the state passed a couple laws to help rein in the effects of that spending. Under the laws, if a judge has received campaign contributions from a party in a case (the limits are $2,000 for circuit judges and $4,000 for appellate judges), then the opposing party can force the judge to recuse himself from the case.

But now, some Alabama residents are accusing judges of ignoring the laws. A lawsuit has been filed against the state for failing to enforce the laws.

Earlier this year, I wrote an article in Governing about the increasing politicization of judicial races, and the skyrocketing costs of them. Critics of these trends say the increased spending is leading to a judiciary dependent on -- and beholden to -- special interests.

Laws like the ones in Alabama are one way to address the influence of money. But not if they're not enforced.