Gavel Grab

Ohio Bar President Cites JAS in Recusal Message

Gary LepplaThe Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) has called on the U.S. Supreme Court to provide new guidance on the issue of judicial recusal in cases involving campaign contributors.

According to a message from OSBA President Gary Leppla, left, the Association has been troubled by   public belief that campaign contributions influence courtroom decisions. As Leppla declares, “While it is our belief that most judges are able to separate their judicial decision-making from any influence of campaign contributions, we are respectful of the need to ensure the public’s trust and confidence in the judicial system.”

The message cites a Justice at Stake/Harris Interactive Poll, which indicates that most adults doubt that judges can be impartial when trying cases that involve major campaign contributors. It also refers to a similar USA Today poll , which said 90% believe judges should not hear such cases.

These findings, Leppla notes, are especially important on the eve of oral arguments in Caperton v. Massey, a case involving a coal company CEO who spent $3 million to elect a West Virginia Supreme Court justice, who later voted to overturn a $50 million jury award against the company. As the U.S. Supreme Court considers the issue of recusal standards for judges, Leppla declared that:

The OSBA hopes that the U.S. Supreme Court’s consideration of the Caperton case will provide new guidance regarding when judges should remove themselves from hearing and deciding cases before them, and in defining the factors that should guide judges in making those decisions.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Caperton v. Massey on March 3.

The full survey results of the Justice at Stake/Harris Interactive Poll can be found here.

To find out more about Caperton v. Massey, you can visit the Justice at Stake Caperton resource page.

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