The American Bar Association’s recent action to urge strong judicial recusal guidelines for states won praise from a New York Times editorial, entitled “Progress on Fair Courts.”
The resolution was adopted by the ABA House of Delegates at the organization’s annual meeting in Toronto. It urges states to establish clear procedures for dealing with judicial disqualification and for greater transparency about judges who receive campaign cash and lawyers and litigants who donate it (see Gavel Grab).
With its vote, the ABA “took overdue action to protect judicial fairness and impartiality in the face of skyrocketing special-interest spending in state judicial elections,” the editorial said.
A central part of the resolution urges state judiciaries, the editorial said, “to develop a prompt appeals process to avoid leaving any final decision about a judge’s impartiality to the challenged judge.” A second part sets out disclosure recommendations that can help shine a light on possible conflicts of interest for judges accepting campaign donations.
The editorial commended then-President Stephen Zack of the ABA for winning an agreement that satisfied different segments of the organization, including judges. It concluded:
“It is dismaying that two years after a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court in a case involving judicial campaign spending, few state court systems have put in place rigorous rules for recusal. The A.B.A.’s new resolution is advisory and will not change things overnight. Still, for the organization to advocate for strong action on recusal is an encouraging development — one leaders of state judiciaries should find hard to ignore.”
In June, Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice reported that two years after the Supreme Court’s landmark Caperton v. Massey decision, most states had failed to update their judicial disqualification rules to keep campaign cash out of the courtroom.
Only nine states have adopted promising new disqualification rules, and the majority of state courts have failed to adopt any reforms, the two nonpartisan legal reform groups said.
The ABA and the Brennan Center are JAS partner groups.
Tags: New York Times