Before joining the Hofstra Law faculty in 2009, Professor Sample served as an attorney in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law since 2005. Before joining the Center, he worked on Brian Schweitzer’s gubernatorial campaign in Montana and clerked for Judge Sidney R. Thomas of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Professor Sample received his JD from Columbia Law School in 2003. While at Columbia, Professor Sample was a Harlan Fiske Stone and James Kent Scholar and served as a Notes Editor on the Columbia Law Review. He has written several publications and legal briefs on the topic of judicial elections, campaign financing, and recusal.
Professor Sample regularly comments on voting rights and constitutional issues in leading media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Law Journal, Slate.com, and HuffingtonPost, as well as at national conferences.
Citations to Professor Sample's work on issues related to democracy include in opinions of the United States Supreme Court, articles in the Harvard Law Review, Columbia Law Review, and other leading journals, as well as in major media including The New York Times, Washington Post, The Economist, U.S. News and World Report, The Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, USA Today, the National Law Journal, as well as inleading blogs and regional outlets throughout the country.
Prior to attending law school, Professor Sample was a 3-time Emmy Award winner for his work as a producer with NBC Sports.
Industry Expertise (1)
Areas of Expertise (6)
Columbia University: J.D. 2003
Boston College: B.A. 1995
Media Appearances (6)
Neil Gorsuch Has Web of Ties to Secretive Billionaire
The New York Times
James Sample, a Hofstra University law professor who has studied Supreme Court recusals, said, “It’s very reasonable to ask a Supreme Court nominee for a more thorough answer” about how he will weigh such decisions, especially since “it seems as though there is a kind of continuous relationship — this is not just a past client.”...
Most Supreme Court Candidates Are Already Assured of Election Day Success
New York Law Journal
James Sample, a professor at Hofstra University School of Law and a judicial election expert, said the dominance of the Democratic Party in New York City and the tendency of both Democratic and Republican County leaders outside the city to cross-endorse the same candidates serves to reinforce the control of judicial elections by the major political parties and lessens voter choice on Election Day.
"From the perspective of the party leaders, cross-endorsements are a great idea, because it's much more valuable to be able to promise somebody a judgeship, as opposed to a nomination in which they still have a competitive election," Sample said in an interview this week. "If you are looking to extract favors, political or otherwise, being able to effectively promise a 14-year position with a six-figure salary and a whole lot of prestige is a pretty good place to start."...
'Smoke-Filled Rooms' Still Rule New York Judicial Elections
Vito Lopez told her that to be considered for a nomination, she would need to hire his daughter as a law clerk in her court. She declined. “For rejecting that overture, she was in essence blackballed,” says James Sample, a professor at Hofstra University.
Lopez Torres was undaunted. Year after year, she asked Brooklyn Democratic leaders to back her at the annual judicial convention, where elected delegates usually rubber-stamp the party choice. Year after year, they declined. So in 2004, she sued the state board of elections. Sample was part of her legal team.
The case felt like a long shot, Sample said. But she won — in the District Court, and the Second Circuit. In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in...
Tracing Ward’s path to state judicial bench
The Buffalo News
But critics ask whether the new jurist’s reward for fueling the party treasury resulted in the most effortless campaign ever waged by a local judicial candidate. Ward avoided fundraising until after his election was assured, endured no bar association rating process before his nomination, and sat out spring and summer campaigning.
It all leads James J. Sample, an associate professor at Long Island’s Hofstra Law School and a longtime critic of the state’s judicial nominating system, to reiterate that “legal acumen means nothing compared to political patronage” in determining who sits on New York’s top trial bench.
“In other states, the typical fear of judicial elections is contributions from litigants to candidates,” he said. “In New York, the problem is the candidates themselves have to ante up to become judges.”
How Long Island judges win races before they start
That troubles legal scholars who have long criticized the state’s judicial selection process. “It’s unseemly, it’s unbecoming; but it’s legal and business as usual for New York judgeships,” said James Sample, a Hofstra University law professor who has studied judicial selection...
Lear Jet Justice in West Virginia? A 'Circus Masquerading as a Court'
ABC News Nightline tv
As a $90 million jury verdict was wending its way to the West Virginia Supreme Court, the lawyer handling the nursing home abuse case did more than prepare appellate briefs and ready himself for oral arguments. He was, critics said, pulling every lever available to him to try to give his client an edge outside the legal system -- lining up thousands of dollars in campaign contributions for the court’s chief justice and negotiating a private deal to buy a $1.3 million Lear Jet from her husband.
When the nursing home case finally reached the state’s high court earlier this year, Chief Justice Robin Jean Davis wrote the majority opinion upholding the jury verdict for the client of lawyer Michael Fuller, though lowering the final payout to just over $40 million. The cut for Fuller’s firm: more than $17 million -- one of the largest payouts he’s ever secured.
Davis never disclosed the airplane deal, telling ABC News she was under no obligation to do so because it involved her husband, and not her. But ethics experts have questioned that assertion.
“This does not look good for the rule of law,” said James Sample, an expert on judicial ethics at Hofstra University Law School. “A million-dollar sale of an airplane while litigation involving the lawyer who purchases the airplane is pending before the court? Absolutely no question. It’s proper to disclose, and it is improper to not disclose. This is a circus masquerading as a court.”
Event Appearances (1)
The Agnostic’s Guide to Judicial Selection
Symposium: The Impact of Dark Money on Judicial Elections and Judicial Behavior DePaul University College of Law
For Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, controversies pitting personal conflicts — whether actual or merely alleged — against the constitutional commitment to the rule of law increasingly form the basis of a caustic and circular national dialogue that generates substantially more heat than light. While the profile of these controversies is undoubtedly waxing, the underlying tensions stretch back at least to Marbury v. Madison.
For all its seminal import, in Marbury, Chief Justice John Marshall adjudicated a case involving the validity of judicial commissions Marshall had himself signed and sealed. Equally remarkably, one of those judicial commissions belonged to Marshall’s own brother James...
Counter-historically, the highest profile judicial election campaigns of the first judicial elections cycle following the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission were retention and ballot measure, rather than contested elections. Retention elections, in which voters cast their ballots either in favor of returning the incumbent judge to office for another term or for her removal, were intended to balance the values of judicial impartiality and accountability to the public...
This symposium article asserts that Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co. is correct in result; correct in its narrowness; and correct in calling on courts to be more rigorous in recusal than due process requires. The article argues that Caperton is a model of judicial restraint and that, paradoxically for a decision overturning a state justice's non-recusal, the majority's approach is a model of cooperative federalism. These characteristics are particularly exemplified by the degree to which the opinion tracks the counsel offered by the Conference of Chief Justices, both as to what the opinion decides, and as to what it does not decide...