Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Recusal' Category

Starr: Justices Should Avoid Financial Conflicts of Interest

Ideally, there should be no occasion for a Supreme Court justice to step down from hearing a case over a financial conflict of interest, a former appeals court judge said, because justices should divest in advance to avoid such a potential conflict.

Former Judge Ken Starr gave that opinion at a panel discussion entitled “Today’s Supreme Court: Tradition v. Technology and Transparency,” sponsored by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Blog of Legal Times reported.

“The goal should be no justice should step aside because of financial interest,” said Starr, now the president of Baylor University. “He or she should divest themselves as promptly as possible from whatever that interest might be that would prevent him or her from doing their job.” Read more

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Recusal of High Court Justice Sought Again in North Carolina

Plaintiffs in a legislative and congressional redistricting case in North Carolina are asking for state Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby (photo) to step aside from participating in it. They cite a Republican group’s giving $1.2 million in support of Justice Newby in his reelection contest last year.

A similar recusal motion was filed last year and was rejected by the state Supreme Court in December (see Gavel Grab). The latest filing contends that his recusal is more urgent given the court is getting ready to hear an appeal that involves arguments over the redistricting plans’ constitutionality, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. The earlier recusal motion came in a related legal matter; subsequently a lower court found the redistricting plans to be not unconstitutional.

Plaintiffs are contending now, regarding $1.2 million given in support of Justice Newby by the Republican State Leadership Committee, that unless the jurist steps aside, “he will rule on the validity of redistricting plans that were drawn, endorsed, and embraced by the principal funder of a committee supporting his campaign for re-election.” Read more

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WI Supreme Court Justices Debate New Recusal Rules

Wisconsin Supreme Court justices discussed changes to the state’s judicial ethics code on Friday, but couldn’t seem to decide on alterations to recusal rules, reports the Legal Newsline.

The justices held an Open Rules Conference on Friday to discuss Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s proposed revisions. According to the article, Abrahamson would like to see the court follow provisions from  a code of conduct created by the American Bar Association.

Newly reelected Justice Pat Roggensack argued that the court should not be revising the code in an open meeting forum.

Justice David Prosser said he was worried that attorneys and special interest groups would abuse the new recusal rules, and use them to push certain justices off a case.

Both Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley are in support of making the changes in the open, the article says.

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Judicial Recusal Debated in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race

Wisconsin Public Radio has produced an explanatory piece about  judicial recusal and how the court’s rules have become a campaign issue in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race.

In 2009, the Wisconsin Supreme Court weakened its recusal policy significantly, saying that campaign expenditures could not be a cause for an elected judge to recuse.

Challenger Ed Fallone, a Marquette University law professor, has called for changing the rule.

“I think that when someone leaves the courthouse, and they have perhaps lost their case, they need to feel that they were treated fairly,” he said at a recent debate. “When they discover that that judge had received substantial campaign contributions from someone on the other side of the aisle — either the party or their lawyer — they’re going to doubt whether they were treated fairly.”

Incumbent Justice Patience Roggensack, defending the rule, said it should not be assumed that a judge will be influenced by campaign cash. Read more

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Challenger Airs Attack Ad in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race

Negative TV advertising has begun in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election, two weeks before voters go to the polls on April 2.

Challenger Ed Fallone aired an advertising attack against incumbent Justice Patience Roggensack that both highlighted what he calls the court’s “dysfunction” and slammed the incumbent. The incumbent’s camp, in turn, called the ad “more than disappointing” and factually wrong, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.

“Pat Roggensack refused to hold David Prosser accountable for choking another justice,” says a narrator in the ad, referring to an incident in which fellow Justice Prosser placed a colleague in a chokehold. Justice Roggensack recused from participating in hearing ethics charges that were filed against Justice Prosser on grounds she had witnessed the incident.

“It’s more than disappointing Professor Fallone continues his negative campaign attacking Justice Roggensack and the Wisconsin Supreme Court,” said Justice Roggensack’s campaign consultant Brandon Scholz. Read more

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Judicial Recusal a Topic in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race

A candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court is working to make judicial recusal an issue, contending a justice ought to step aside from hearing cases that involve a party who has contributed campaign cash to the justice.

“We should always be concerned that the courts are not perceived as being for sale,” says Marquette law professor Ed Fallone, who is challenging incumbent Justice Patience Roggensack. An Associated Press article about a joint appearance by the pair discussed the recusal issue.

The incumbent ”bears a large part of the responsibility for pushing through” a revision to court rules, Fallone says. In 2009, the Wisconsin Supreme Court weakened its recusal policy significantly, saying that campaign expenditures could not be a cause for an elected judge to recuse.

Justice Roggensack has not veered from defending the rule. She told a legislative panel that “money spent to communicate during an election has long been held to be an element of speech, and therefore such expenditures are protected by the First Amendment.” Her views were reported in a Daily Page article by Bill Lueders of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Read more

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Scholar Examines High Court Recusal, Separation of Powers

Responding to calls for Congress to more tightly regulate recusal practices by Supreme Court justices, Lou Virelli,  an associate professor of law at Stetson University College of Law, takes a different tack.

In a SCOTUSblog essay summing up some of his recent law review articles, Virelli argues that it is unconstitutional for Congress to regulate recusal practices of the nation’s highest court. Virelli sees a conflict between the Congress and the court in this area, and he goes further to explore ways to resolve the conflict.

He concludes it the responsibility of Congress ”to resolve the impasse through the only mechanism capable of achieving such a resolution – targeted repeal of the [existing federal] recusal statute.” At the same time, Congress has indirect ways to check the recusal powers of the court, he writes.

Read more

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FL Court to Weigh Influence on Judge of Facebook Tie

After a Florida Circuit Court judge was required to recuse himself from a case in which he was Facebook friends with the prosecutor, the state Supreme Court will decide whether he should have removed himself or not.

Judge Andrew Siegel refused a request by the defendant to recuse himself, but a decision from a three-judge panel overruled him, says the Associated Press.

According to the article, the judges invoked a 2009 opinion from the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee of Florida that judges may not “friend” lawyers on social networking sites if they come before them in court.

Judges “do not have the unfettered social freedom of teenagers,” wrote District Judge Robert Gross.

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Proposed IL Recusal Rule Falls Short, Say JAS and Brennan Center

The Illinois State Bar Association has proposed a new judicial disqualification rule, which next will be considered by the state Supreme Court. Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice said in a letter the proposal falls short and “would be a step backward, not forward.”

According to a Madison County (Ill.) Record article, the proposed rule would require a judge to step aside from a case if there was a probability of bias after consideration of relevant circumstances, to include campaign donations.

“I think it’s important for all of us in the profession to look for ways we can address the perception of the public that politics plays way too big of a role in the way we select our judges,” ISBA President John Thies said.

Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center, a JAS partner group, wrote a letter Dec. 14 to Thies expressing concerns that the proposal “would erect a threshold for recusal that is both higher than what exists under existing ethics rules and undesirable as a matter of policy.” Read more

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North Carolina Supreme Court: Recusal for Newby not Necessary

On Monday, the North Carolina Supreme Court rejected a request that Justice Paul Newby recuse himself from a redistricting case that will come before the court.

State Democrats, the local NAACP chapter, and other groups had requested that Newby not participate in the case due to the possibility of bias, reports the North Carolina News Observer.

Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP chapter, expressed disappointment in the decision, but remains confident that they will win the case in the long run.

“We believe we have a strong case against the current redistricting plans,” Barber said. “If it’s heard fairly, based on the law and not on any other outside influence, we believe we will be successful on the merits.” Read more

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