Archive for the 'Recusal' Category
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.
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
Did 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
The 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
After an ABC news report questioning the ethics of a West Virginia Supreme Court justice (see Gavel Grab), at least one local commentator has leapt to the justice’s defense.
At Metro News of West Virginia, Talkline Host Hoppy Kercheval has a column saying “ABC aims, but misses on Justice Robin Davis.”
ABC News said a plaintiff’s attorney, Michael Fuller, purchased a jet airplane from the husband of Chief Justice Davis and contributed to, and worked so that others would give to, her 2012 re-election campaign. The chief justice 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, according to the Associated Press.
Kercheval points out that under the judicial ethics code of West Virginia, judicial candidates cannot “even know who has donated to them”; that Davis and her husband are wealthy and could have written a check to her campaign for the $35,000 Read more
Lawyers who contributed thousands of dollars for an unsuccessful effort to deny retention to Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier now are trying to depose him in the context of a racketeering lawsuit. Justice Karmeier says they don’t have the authority to question him under oath.
The Madison-St. Clair (Il.) Record provided that update in the wake of Justice Karmeier’s Election Day retention victory, after a group funded heavily by plaintiffs lawyers spent more than $1.1 million to oppose his retention.
The racketeering lawsuit contends that State Farm, the insurance company, funded a multimillion-dollar campaign a decade ago to elect Karmeier to the Supreme Court. The lawsuit is called Hale v. State Farm. Read more
With spending in North Carolina’s Supreme Court contest approaching $4 million, some expenditures can undermine a perception of judicial impartiality, yet the state ranks in the basement for ethics rules addressing court transparency and accountability, a commentator suggests.
At NC Policy Watch, Sharon McCloskey tackles this issue in a commentary with a headline asking, “What do justices owe voters in exchange for taking their cash?”
“Judges raising campaign dollars, particularly from attorneys and firms likely to appear before them in court, is a scenario so obviously rife with the potential for undue influence and bias that it’s been banned in most places,” McCloskey writes. “But in North Carolina and eight other states, judges are Read moreNo comments
Four Wisconsin Supreme Court justices are facing some calls to recuse themselves from hearing a high-profile controversy due to their benefitting from campaign spending by involved groups (see Gavel Grab). A Wisconsin State Journal article quotes Justice at Stake in suggesting the Wisconsin circumstances are likely to be far from unique.
“No matter how it’s resolved, these kinds of episodes are going to happen over and over again as more money piles up around state judicial elections,” Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg told the newspaper.
Tougher rules governing judicial recusal when judges face campaign supporters in the courtroom provide “insulation” that helps preserve impartial courts, Brandenburg said, and JAS called unsuccessfully in 2010 for the Wisconsin justices to adopt more robust recusal rules. Read moreNo comments
With the Wisconsin Supreme Court beset by credibility problems arising from judicial election spending on justices’ behalf, two editorials say, it’s time to seriously consider switching to a better method for picking judges.
As Gavel Grab mentioned earlier, the high court has before it a decision whether to shut down a state campaign finance investigation, and four justices have benefitted from millions of dollars of campaign spending by several of the targeted groups. Some experts have said the justices should recuse themselves.
A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial said recusal is not the answer because recusals could “paralyze” the court. “The real answer to this court’s chronic credibility problem is to reduce the influence of deep-pocketed outside groups,” it said, noting both the editorial board’s past support for a merit selection system while signaling interest in a 16-year term limit proposal for Supreme Court justices advanced last year by a State Bar panel (see Gavel Grab). Read moreNo comments
Justice Lloyd Karmeier of the Illinois Supreme Court has rejected a request by lawyers for plaintiffs suing Philip Morris to recuse himself from participating in an appeal on grounds there was a public perception he is biased, the Madison-St. Clair Record reported.
In a rare, 16-page order, Justice Karmeier explained his decision not to recuse and he “addressed the plaintiffs’ allegations he voted to overturn the $10.1 billion verdict against the tobacco company in 2005, the year after it funneled donations to his campaign for the high court,” the newspaper said. Read moreNo comments