Gavel Grab

JAS: Judicial Election Spending Will Spark More Recusal Spats

Seal_of_the_Supreme_Court_of_Wisconsin.svgFour Wisconsin Supreme Court justices are facing some calls to recuse themselves from hearing a high-profile controversy due to their benefitting from campaign spending by involved groups (see Gavel Grab). A Wisconsin State Journal article quotes Justice at Stake in suggesting the Wisconsin circumstances are likely to be far from unique.

“No matter how it’s resolved, these kinds of episodes are going to happen over and over again as more money piles up around state judicial elections,” Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg told the newspaper.

Tougher rules governing judicial recusal when judges face campaign supporters in the courtroom provide “insulation” that helps preserve impartial courts, Brandenburg said, and JAS called unsuccessfully in 2010 for the Wisconsin justices to adopt more robust recusal rules.

“They (judges) are supposed to treat every case equally,” Brandenburg said. “Campaign money is about pressure — that’s what it’s designed to do. We can’t ask our judges to do their jobs without pressure (because) that insulation is wearing away.”

The Wisconsin high court has before it a decision whether to shut down a state campaign finance investigation, and four justices have benefitted from millions of dollars of campaign spending by several of the targeted groups.

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