Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Recusal' Category

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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French Insists Campaign Statements Are Not Grounds for Recusal

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith French

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith French says the “philosophical views” she expressed at a campaign event are not grounds for recusal.

The Columbus Dispatch explains that during last year’s campaign she told a group of legislators at a Republican rally that they should vote for her because “the Ohio Supreme Court is the backstop for all those other votes you are going to cast.” The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, Ohio’s largest state employee union, claimed this statement revealed bias for Republican legislation. French responded that the comment does not conflict with her belief “that policy making must stop with the legislature,” so she had no reason to recuse herself.

Read more

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Judicial Recusal Bill Weighed in Montana Legislature

A bill under debate in the Montana legislature would require a judge to step aside from hearing a case if he or she received $35 in campaign donations from a party or lawyer involved in the case, according to Gavel to Gavel.

According to an Associated Press report, “A slate of judges, attorneys and a representative of the State Bar of Montana opposed the measure. They argued that widespread disqualification would ensue under HB 255 given the high number of attorneys that contribute to campaigns.”

Justice at Stake has called in general for more rigorous recusal rules, in order to protect fair and impartial courts when judges are elected. JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg wrote in a Chicago Tribune op-ed in September 2011: Read more

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Judge’s Campaign Remarks Now Basis for Recusal Request

frenchDid Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith L. French display potential bias for fellow Republicans in elected office with her remarks at a campaign rally last year? The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association argues that she did, and as a result she should step aside from hearing an appeal of a case in which it is a party.

The controversy is the subject of a Columbus Dispatch article entitled, “Union wants Ohio Supreme Court’s Judith French off case, alleging bias.” The article says Justice French made the following remarks on Oct. 25 at a political rally:

“I am a Republican, and you should vote for me. … Let me tell you something, the Ohio Supreme Court is the backstop for all those other votes you are going to cast” for Republican candidates. “So, forget all those other votes if you don’t keep the Ohio Supreme Court conservative.” Read more

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Wisconsin Supreme Court to Hear Cases in Campaign Finance Probe

Seal_of_the_Supreme_Court_of_Wisconsin.svgThe Wisconsin Supreme Court has voted 6-0 to take up three cases involved with a state campaign finance investigation, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The Wisconsin Club for Growth is one of the groups at the center of the investigation, which is looking at possible illegal coordination between outside groups and recall campaigns. In recent years the Wisconsin Club for Growth has spent about $1.8 million in support of election of four conservative justices on the court, and some experts have called for them to recuse from hearing the cases, but there has not been unanimity of opinion (see Gavel Grab).

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, when spending by two other groups targeted in the investigation is added to the sum spent by Wisconsin Club for Growth, it climbs to $8 million in support of the four justice over seven years. Read more

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