Commentary: Prosser Off Base in Declining to Recuse

justice-scalesWisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser relied on weak legal arguments when he declined to recuse himself from a court opinion that shut down a controversial campaign finance investigation, Matt Rothschild of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign writes at Madison.com.

Prosser recently issued a 15-page explanation of why he declined to recuse (see Gavel Grab). A special prosecutor had asked him and another justice to do so, pointing to spending by several groups involved in the investigation that benefitted the campaigns of Prosser and the second justice.

Rothschild disputes specific legal points cited by Prosser but also looks at the case through the lens of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling about runaway judicial election spending, called Caperton v. Massey:

“The U.S. Supreme Court, in its 2009 Caperton v. Massey Coal decision, said that if campaign funding by a party to a case had a ‘significant and disproportionate’ influence in getting a judge elected, that judge has an obligation to get off that case. The special prosecutor asserted Prosser benefited from $3,344,000 spent by groups being investigated in the John Doe investigation, and Prosser didn’t dispute that figure.”

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is a Justice at Stake partner organization.