Archive for the 'Recusal' Category
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.
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.”No comments
The 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 moreNo comments
The 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 moreNo comments
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.
Last 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.No comments
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 moreNo comments
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.No comments
More 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:No comments
Only eight of 39 states where judges are elected got passing grades from a Center for American Progress analysis for adequately addressing the potential conflicts of interest that accompany high spending judicial elections.
The CAP brief was entitled, “State Judicial Ethics Rules Fail to Address Flood of Campaign Cash from Lawyers and Litigants.” It drew data about judicial election spending from “The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2011-12” by Justice at Stake and two partner organizations.
States that got passing grades were Arizona, 60; California, 75; Georgia, 70; Michigan, 70; Minnesota, 60; New York, 60; Utah, 65; and Washington, 65. The brief concluded:
“The results of this study should alarm anyone who cares about impartial justice. Given the exponential increase in campaign cash in recent decades, justices in state supreme courts across America are hearing more and more cases that involve their campaign contributors. Polls show that this is causing the public to doubt judicial impartiality. Read more
As the Wisconsin Supreme Court prepares to rule on a challenge to the state’s “Act 10,” which seeks to dismantle collective bargaining for most public workers, academics and interest groups are debating whether any of the justices should have to recuse themselves because they received campaign donations from public sector unions.
The Act, passed in 2011, was challenged by unions, who argue that its labor restrictions violated the state constitution. A Circuit Court judge agreed in 2012, and the case is now under consideration by the Supreme Court.
Wisconsin’s rules requires judges to bow out of certain cases where their impartiality can be questioned. The Journal Sentinel reported on calls for recusal, along with the opinions of some legal scholars who stated that the donations in question were so small in relation to overall campaign spending that they may not require recusal.No comments