U.S. SUPREME COURT RULES THAT JUDGES MUST RECUSE THEMSELVES IF THERE IS AN APPEARANCE OF BIAS
An AAJ article today reported on the case of Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co. in which the Court held in a 5-4 decision that state court judges that get big campaign contributions cannot sit in judgment of their biggest contributors. In this due process decision the court ruled that a judge must step down when one of the litigants is a major campaign contributor to that judge to avoid an inference of bias.
In this case a coal company executive spent $3 million to get Judge Brent Benjamin elected to the state supreme court. He then ruled in favor of that coal company in a $50 million case.
Kennedy, writing for justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer, stressed that ‘not every campaign contribution by a litigant or attorney creates a probability of bias that requires a judge’s recusal’ and that this was an extraordinary case.