A Louisiana judge’s unusual lawsuit against four fellow jurists, alleging they illegally forced his recusal from two environmental cases as a result of campaign donations, “represents a new battlefront in an ongoing war over judicial elections, political free speech and campaign money,” Law360 reports. The article quotes Justice at Stake.
“It was really only a matter of time, given the way the courts have been looking at judges, that you would see this kind of clash between free speech, First Amendment issues … and the right to due process,” Scott Greytak, JAS senior policy counsel, said. “This is just an extreme example of those two constitutional values ramming into each other, and it’s a problem that wouldn’t even be possible in about half the states, which don’t have Supreme Court elections.”
Justice Jefferson Hughes III of the Louisiana Supreme Court contends his colleagues effectively put “unconstitutional limits on the amount of money a person can contribute to a political action committee” (see Gavel Grab).
Law360, a legal news service, said some experts believe challenges like the one in Louisiana have become almost inevitable in those states where judges are elected.
“Look at the combination of modern American political partisanship, plus judicial elections, plus unregulated political money — that’s a toxic combination, and it’s really not surprising that we have judges suing each other,” said Jed Shugerman, who teaches at Fordham University School of Law. “All that, with the nastiness of the [judicial campaign] ads, it’s really eroding collegiality on the bench and public confidence.”
The article also said that Hughes’s lawsuit will face “serious challenges in light of U.S. Supreme Court decisions on recusals and judicial speech.”