Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Strong Recusal Rules Are Crucial to Judicial Integrity | Center for American Progress

A new report from the Center for American Progress.
Strong Recusal Rules Are Crucial to Judicial Integrity | Center for American Progress:

Since the 2000 election season, state supreme court races have seen a surge in campaign cash. State supreme court candidates from 2000 to 2009 raised more than $200 million—two and a half times more than the amount raised in the previous decade. A report from Justice at Stake, an advocate for fair courts, found that judicial elections in 2012 set a spending record, with $27.8 million shelled out for television advertising alone. This flood of campaign cash has flowed from corporations, interest groups, and lawyers seeking to influence the composition of state high courts and the rulings issued by those courts.This abundance of campaign donations has sometimes led to alarming conflicts of interest. Unlike legislators, judges make decisions that impact specific individuals or entities, which means the avoidance of any bias or partiality is critical. Under the ethical rules and guidelines in place in most states, judges must disclose any campaign donations from parties or attorneys before their courts, and they must refrain from hearing a case if it would give rise to “impropriety or the appearance of impropriety.” This standard, however, is vague and leaves much to interpretation.Judges sometimes recuse themselves from cases involving litigants or lawyers who have given money to their campaigns, but all too often judges refuse to abstain in the face of glaring conflicts of interest. This has caused the public to doubt the impartiality of judges. According to several recent polls, more than three quarters of respondents believe that campaign cash influences rulings.

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