Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Recusal' Category

Editorial Argues for Open Proceedings in High Profile WI Case

When the Wisconsin Supreme Court holds oral arguments on challenges to a campaign finance investigation, it would be ill-advised to do so in secret, as organizations trying to end the investigation have asked, a Beloit Daily News editorial declares.

Four justices on the court benefited from big spending by the organizations, and for them to participate in hearing the case would represent “a conflict of interest of astonishing proportions,” the editorial says.

“If those justices stay on the case and decide it, let’s call it what it is — corruption,” the editorial asserts. It adds, “Corruption is easier to practice when no one is allowed to watch.”  It argues for open proceedings and adds, “The people have a right to decide for themselves if justice is now for sale in Wisconsin.”

Earlier, a Wall Street Journal editorial took a sharply different view (see Gavel Grab), saying recusal would not be required under the state’s code of judicial conduct or under the standard set by a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

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Wall Street Journal Editorial Opposes Wisconsin Recusal Motion

A special prosecutor’s recusal request before the Wisconsin Supreme Court has garnered national attention, including a supportive New York Times editorial (see Gavel Grab) and a Brennan Center for Justice amicus brief. Now a Wall Street Journal editorial argues against recusal.

The editorial is entitled, “The Left’s Recusal Gambit: A prosecutor and his allies try to rig a judicial appeal in Wisconsin.” (It is searchable through Google). The editorial’s authors say they reviewed the motion that one or more Wisconsin Supreme Court justices recuse themselves from hearing challenges to a campaign finance investigation. Four justices are reported to have benefited from multimillion-dollar spending by three groups involved in the cases. Read more

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Illinois Court Won’t Disqualify Karmeier in Case Against Philip Morris

For the second time, the Illinois Supreme Court has rejected a request by a plaintiff’s attorney to disqualify Justice Lloyd Karmeier from participating in hearing an appeal involving Philip Morris USA, according to the Madison-St. Clair Record. 

Meanwhile, “The Court also indicated that a motion for his recusal has been referred to Karmeier,” the newspaper reported. Read more

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N.Y. Times Editorial Decries ‘Fiasco’ in Wisconsin Supreme Court

Seal_of_the_Supreme_Court_of_Wisconsin.svgA “fiasco” playing out in the Wisconsin Supreme Court leaves no doubt as to the “toxic effects of outsize spending in judicial elections,” the New York Times declared in an editorial. In making its case, the editorial linked to a public opinion poll by Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice.

As mentioned earlier by Gavel Grab, a special prosecutor has requested that one or more Wisconsin Supreme Court justices recuse themselves from hearing challenges to a campaign finance investigation. Four justices are reported to have benefited from multimillion-dollar spending by three groups involved in the cases.

Whether to recuse “should not be a hard call,” the editorial said, “but under a pitifully weak rule in Wisconsin’s code of judicial conduct, judges do not have to recuse themselves over independent spending related to their campaigns.” By contrast, the U.S. Supreme Court declared a more robust standard in Caperton v. Massey, it said, referring to a landmark runaway judicial election spending case from West Virginia. Read more

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Brennan Center Urges Wisconsin Justices to Consider Recusal

The Brennan Center for Justice has submitted an amicus brief urging the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in deciding a recusal request (see Gavel Grab), to apply its own rules in a manner that’s consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Caperton v. Massey ruling.

A special prosecutor has asked that one or more of the justices  recuse themselves from hearing challenges to a campaign finance investigation. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has reported that four justices benefited from extensive spending by three groups involved in the current cases. Read more

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Commentary: Why Wisconsin Justices Should Agree to Recuse

630px-Seal_of_WisconsinFor certain justices sitting on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, recusal is an issue that won’t go away.

Gavel Grab has mentioned a special prosecutor’s recent request for one or more of the justices to recuse themselves from hearing challenges to a campaign finance investigation, and Justice at Stake’s remarks that this reflects the “bitter harvest of electing judges.” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has reported that four justices benefited from extensive spending by three groups involved in the current cases.

Now a lengthy article by Bruce Murphy at Urban Milwaukee, an online publication, delves further into spending that benefited the justices. He zeroes in on spending by Club for Growth and Wisconsin Manufacturers and says: Read more

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Special Prosecutor Seeks Judicial Recusal in Wisconsin Cases

Seal_of_the_Supreme_Court_of_Wisconsin.svgThe special prosecutor who has led a state campaign finance investigation now has asked one or more Wisconsin Supreme Court justices to step aside from hearing challenges to the probe.

A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article said the court filing was sealed, but a docket revealed information that special prosecutor Francis Schmitz brought up “ethical concerns” and asked one or more justices to halt their participation in the case. The investigation has examined whether the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker worked illegally with conservative groups backing him when recall elections were held in 2011 and 2012. Read more

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W.Va. Justice Won’t Recuse, Questions Conduct of Lawyer

justiceDavisIn December, ABC News questioned the ethics of Justice Robin Davis of the West Virginia Supreme Court.  Now ABC News says Justice Davis is seeking to punish an attorney who sought her recusal in a nursing home case.

Last year, ABC News said a plaintiff’s attorney, Michael Fuller, purchased a jet airplane from the husband of  Justice Davis and contributed to, and worked so that others would give to, her 2012 re-election campaign (see Gavel Grab). Justice Davis said she was not involved in the transaction, she did not know who the donors were, and there was no reason for her to recuse from a nursing home case involving Fuller.

This week, ABC News said an attorney opposing Fuller in a different nursing home case, Mark A. Robinson, asked Justice Davis to step aside, saying there was an appearance of a conflict of interest. Justice Davis in turn accused him of making a “false and misleading assertion” against her and sent the matter to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel for investigation, according to ABC News. Read more

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Plaintiffs Repeat Request For Justice Karmeier’s Recusal

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Philip Morris USA have asked Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier for a second time to recuse himself from hearing the appeal of an earlier decision. An article in Crain’s Chicago Business (available through a Google search) explains the case and the latest developments.

The recusal request questions Justice Karmeier’s impartiality and is based in part on a $500,000 contribution from The Altria Group (parent company of Phillip Morris) to the Republican State Leadership Committee in 2014. Two weeks later, the RSLC put $950,000 into independent campaign ads supporting Karmeier’s successful reelection effort. The plaintiffs say the Altria donation came “a few weeks after the court decided to hear Phillip Morris’ appeal,” and accounted for 60 percent of the $1.2 million the RSLC ultimately spent on Karmeier’s behalf. Altria issued a statement saying the donation was given after ensuring “both orally and in writing that our contributions could not be used in judicial elections.” (See Gavel Grab.)

Altria’s only other known contribution to the RSLC was about $225,000 in 2013.

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Judicial Ethics Reform Raised as Issue in Pennsylvania Court Race

1048px-Seal_of_the_Supreme_Court_of_Pennsylvania.svgA candidate running for a seat on the scandal-plagued Pennsylvania Supreme Court wants to make judicial ethics reform a key part of his platform.

Democratic candidate David Wecht, currently a Superior Court judge, has proposed the following reforms, according to PoliticsPa: “Absolute ban on all gifts to judges; Tightened Anti-Nepotism Policy; Sunset Employment of Judges’ Relatives; Require judges to rule on the record in writing on all motions for recusal; Mandated ethics courses for all judicial candidates; Television broadcast of court proceedings.”

With two Supreme Court justices entangled in scandal in recent years, there also have been renewed calls for Pennsylvania to switch from judicial elections to a merit selection system for picking Supreme Court justices (see Gavel Grab).

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