Two opinion pieces in the Allentown Morning Call and Penn Live take issue with then-Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ron Castille’s decision not to recuse himself in a capital case, which is also the subject of the Williams v. Pennsylvania case (see Gavel Grab). The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case on Monday.
In the Allentown Morning Call Brianne Gorod, Chief Counsel of the Constitutional Accountability Center of Washington, D.C, argues that Castille’s role in the Williams case was a “clear violation of the constitution.” She writes, “Williams asked that Castille recuse himself, but Castille refused. By doing so, Castille created a judicial conflict so extreme that it violated the Constitution’s guarantee of an impartial justice system.” Castille had run the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office when Williams was prosecuted and sentenced to die.
She concludes that “whether the American people trust in our justice system depends, in significant part, on whether they can trust the judges who make up that justice system to be impartial.”
In Penn Live John Micek writes that the details of the events leading up to the Williams v. Pennsylvania case sound “too fantastical to ever happen.” Running through the case, Micek argues that even taking out the issue of the death penalty, it is clear that a sufficient level of judicial impartiality was not reached:
“Without addressing whether you support the death penalty or not, reasonable people can agree on this much: Everyone deserves a fair and unbiased shake before the court. And it’s pretty clear that even that minimum standard wasn’t met here.”