Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Recusal' Category

ABA Recommends Recusal Procedures

aba law journalThe ABA Journal reports that the American Bar Association House of Delegates adopted recusal policy at last week’s annual meeting.

The policy urges states and territories to adopt judicial disqualification and recusal procedures concerning campaign financing in judicial election campaigns.

According to the article, “Resolution 105C follows earlier efforts beginning in 2011 to address concerns raised by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., which said that due process requires recusal when campaign funding raises ‘a serious risk of actual bias.’ A proposal in 2012 to add stricter, more detailed guidelines for judges ran into opposition. Thus the policy adopted today addressed procedures.

Robert S. Peck, who is a  Justice at Stake board member,  spoke on behalf of the proposal telling the House of Delegates that the measure has the endorsement of the Conference of Chief Justices.

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Arkansas Attorney General: Electing Judges is a Mistake

arkansas_flag_web_fc1aArkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said this week that he believes electing state judges is a mistake and that Arkansas should consider shifting to a method like Missouri’s, combining an appointive process and retention (up-or-down) elections when judges seek a new term.

The Associated Press reported McDaniel’s remarks in an article that was headlined, “Couples ask justices to recuse in marriage case.” Some couples challenging an Arkansas ban on marriage of same-sex couples have requested that any Arkansas Supreme Court justices who intend to run for re-election step aside from hearing an appeal in matter. The plaintiffs say legislators have employed “intimidation tactics” to influence the outcome of an appeal before the high court.

In June, the Arkansas Legislative Council approved a resolution declaring that state Judge Chris Piazza had “overstepped his judicial authority” and that urged the state Supreme Court to reverse his ruling (see Gavel Grab). Judge Piazza had struck down a state ban on marriage for same-sex couples. Read more

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New Ethics Rules Affect Pennsylvania Judges Weighing Recusal

New ethics rules for Pennsylvania judges touch on numerous practices. One of the most potentially injurious practices involves judges taking campaign donations from parties who later appear before them in court.

One of the new rules advises judges to step aside from hearing a case if they learn that a party to it made a campaign donation to them  “in an amount that would raise a reasonable concern” about fairness or impartiality, reports a Tribune Review article. 

“We know that’s a place where you can step on a land mine if you’re not very careful,” Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald Castille told the newspaper.

Because judicial campaign costs may vary widely in different parts of the state, vague rather than specific campaign contribution limits to trigger a judge’s disqualification accommodate the range, Justice Castille said.

Earlier this year, a Center for American Progress analysis gave only eight of 39 states where judges are elected  passing grades  for adequately addressing the potential conflicts of interest that accompany high spending judicial elections. You can read about it by clicking here for Gavel Grab, and you can learn more about judicial recusal from Justice at Stake’s web page about it.

 

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Palestinian-American Defendant Seeks Recusal by U.S. Judge

Defense lawyers for Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian-American woman charged with immigration fraud, have asked that U.S. District Court Judge Paul Borman of Detroit recuse himself from the case because of his extensive work to build support for Israel.

According to a Politico article, Odeh is accused of concealing the almost 10 years she served in an Israeli prison after her conviction in two bombings in Jerusalem, nearly 50 years ago. She says she was raped and tortured at the hands of Israeli officials and soldiers, and the U.S. legal system should not take notice of her conviction before an Israeli military court.

Her defense lawyers maintained about the judge, “Clearly, one who has been a life-long supporter and promoter of Israel and has deep ties to the State of Israel spanning over 50 years, who no doubts believes that Israeli is a great democracy and protector of human rights, cannot be ‘reasonably’ said to be impartial when these claims of torture and illegality are raised by a Palestinian defendant.”

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Two Justices Decline to Recuse in High-Profile S.C. Case

south-carolina-flagThe South Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday in a high-profile case involving  the powerful House speaker. Two justices who had been asked by a watchdog group to recuse themselves did not do so, according to The Post and Courier.

In the oral arguments, a lawyer representing Attorney General John Wilson asked the court to set aside a state judge’s decision directing Wilson to halt a criminal investigation of House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal, who won re-election as chief justice by the legislature this year, was actively supported by Harrell’s electioneering. The executive director of Common Cause of South Carolina asked earlier that both Chief Justice Toal and her opponent, Associate Justice Constance Pleicones, consider recusing themselves (see Gavel Grab). Read more

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Article: Judges Part of ‘An Ethical Mess in South Carolina’

SC-Supreme-Court-Charlotte-North-Carolina-Family-Law-Divorce-Separation-Child-Support-Alimony-Lawyer-AttorneyThe South Carolina Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next week in a closely watched case. Attorney General John Wilson is asking the court to set aside a state judge’s decision directing Wilson to halt a criminal investigation of House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

There is a potential appearance of a conflict of interest in the proceeding, according to some observers, because Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal, who won re-election as chief justice by the legislature this year, was actively supported by Harrell’s electioneering. The executive director of Common Cause of South Carolina has asked that both Chief Justice Toal and her opponent, Associate Justice Constance Pleicones, consider recusing themselves.

The Center for Public Integrity published a lengthy article this week examining the entire matter, headlined “An ethical mess in South Carolina.”  It noted, “South Carolina is the only state other than Virginia with a system by which state lawmakers alone elect state court judges, including members of the Supreme Court.” Read more

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In Oil Spill Litigation, Concerns About Justices and Sons

News media in Louisiana are reporting that two U.S. Supreme Court justices have sons who work at Gibson Dunn, the law firm representing BP in litigation over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. One outlet, The Times-Picayune, says there are some calls for the justices to step aside from hearing any related proceedings in order to prevent an appearance of partiality.

GOMSpill_Hdr_ArtLast week, a federal appeals court ordered that business claims against BP may proceed while BP awaits action by the high court on its appeal of Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. The appeals court had said that to win payment, it is not necessary for claimants to prove the oil spill harmed them directly. BP is asking reversal of the appeals court ruling.

Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia each has a son who works at Gibson Dunn, WWLT.com reported.

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Federal Judge Says He Was ‘Inexcusably Careless,’ Apologizes

Chief Judge Randall R. Rader of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, who resigned last week his position at the court’s helm (see Gavel Grab), has apologized for conduct that “crossed the ethics lines.” He wrote an endorsement of the skills of a lawyer who appeared before him. Read more

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After Recusal Disclosure, Chief Judge Steps Down

Judge Rader

Judge Rader

Chief Judge Randall R. Rader of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has resigned his position at the court’s helm, while he will remain on its bench, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The judge’s action came after the newspaper reported that Judge Rader recused himself from two patent cases after having endorsed an attorney participating in them.

Judge Rader’s recusal came after the court had acted in the cases. Subsequently, the court “disclosed that he was now recused and reissued an opinion in one case and a judicial order in another,” according to the Journal.

The resignation will take effect May 30.

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Ohio Editorial Urges Tougher Recusal Rules for Judges

Ohio_quarter,_reverse_side,_2002More robust judicial recusal rules are needed in Ohio, given the weak rules that currently exist to police an important line between campaign spending and judges’ conduct on the bench, a Toledo (Ohio) Blade editorial says.

“When lawyers, litigants, and other interest groups have financial stakes in how courts rule, it’s unreasonable to think they would not expect a return on the investments they make in the form of campaign aid,” the editorial explains. That’s why strong recusal rule are important, it says. As for the weakness of the current ethics rules, it cites excerpts of a recent Center for American Progress report (see Gavel Grab).

While Ohio would be better served if it switched from electing judges to a system of merit selection, the editorial says, prospects for that reform are not good. It suggests recusal and disclosure reforms that could help, and it concludes:

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