Gavel Grab

JAS, Brennan Hail Tennessee Recusal Rule

Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice have praised the Tennessee Supreme Court’s decision to strengthen that state’s judicial recusal rules.

The state’s new Code of Judicial Conduct, enacted this week, prohibits judges from hearing cases involving campaign supporters in which “the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” The code also requires judges to issue written explanations if they decline to step down from a case, and allows litigants to appeal a judge’s decision.

In a statement issued today, JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg said, “The Tennessee Supreme Court should be applauded for taking this important step forward. Tennessee’s new, forward-looking rules will help ensure public faith in the court system, and provide a model for the rest of the nation to follow.”

Added Maria De Silva, research associate for the Brennan Center, “As spending on high court elections continues to skyrocket, judges and litigants need a clear way to address recusal questions related to campaign contributions. Tennessee’s new disqualification rules are a step in the right direction that will help shore up public confidence in the judiciary.”

Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center filed joint comments in support of the proposed changes to Tennessee’s Code. Adam Skaggs, Senior Counsel for the Brennan Center, presented oral arguments before the Tennessee Supreme Court on December 2, 2011.
In a June 2011 report on recusal reform two years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Caperton v. Massey ruling, JAS and the Brennan Center identified Tennessee’s proposed rules as some of the most promising reforms in the country.

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