SCOTUS to Hear Case Next Week About Judicial Recusal

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Feb. 29 in Williams v. Pennsylvania, a case involving an elected Pennsylvania judge who campaigned for office as tough on crime, and the case gets an extensive preview this week at SCOTUSblog.

Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice have filed an amicus brief in the case (see Gavel Grab). The brief states that Terrance Williams was denied his due process rights when then-Chief Justice Ronald Castille of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, who had campaigned for office on tough-on-crime themes, declined Williams’ request to step aside from hearing an appeal in his death penalty case. Williams’ case was one Castille’s office had prosecuted when Castille served as Philadelphia’s District Attorney.

The SCOTUSblog preview is headlined, “When must a prosecutor-turned-judge recuse from a capital case?” It is written by Richard M. Re, who contrasts and compares issues in the case with the Supreme Court’s landmark 2009 ruling in Caperton v. Massey about runaway spending in judicial elections and judicial recusal.

Author Re contends that the Supreme Court justices, as they weigh the new case about fair courts, “will likely be asking how a ruling for Williams would affect their own ability to hear cases.”