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The Constitution & The Judicial Branch Discuss Supreme Court rules that campaign contributions can create perception of judicial bia at the Political Forums; The justices, in a 5-4 ruling, say a West Virginia Supreme Court judge who received $3 million in campaign contributions ...

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Old 06-08-2009, 03:42 PM
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Post Supreme Court rules that campaign contributions can create perception of judicial bia

The justices, in a 5-4 ruling, say a West Virginia Supreme Court judge who received $3 million in campaign contributions should have recused himself from a case in which the donor was the defendant.

Reporting from Washington -- The Supreme Court today ruled for the first time that a state judge who wins an election thanks to huge contributions from a person or company must step aside from deciding a case involving that individual or his company.

This sort of conflict creates a real risk of "actual bias" and violates the Constitution's guarantees of due process of law, the justices said.

The 5-4 decision came in the case of Don Blankenship, a West Virginia coal company executive who spent $3 million to help win election for a new justice to the West Virginia Supreme Court. The new justice, Brent Benjamin, then cast the deciding vote -- twice -- to throw out a $50-million jury verdict against Blankenship's Massey Coal Company.

The West Virginia case put a spotlight on the growing concern over the impact of money in state judicial cases. In several states, particularly in the Midwest and South, election contests for the state supreme court have become big-money battles waged between corporate interests and trial lawyers. Judges in Illinois and some judges in California are elected.

In today's decision, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy called the facts in the West Virginia case extreme because of the amount spent by Blankenship and by its impact on a pending case. He said the Constitution's principle of fairness required Benjamin to remove himself from Massey's case.

"Blankenship's extraordinary contributions were made at a time when he had a vested stake in the outcome," Kennedy said. "Just as no man is allowed to be the judge in his own cause, similar fears of bias can arise when -- without the consent of other parties -- a man chooses the judge in his own cause. And applying this principle to the judicial election process, there was here a serious, objective risk of actual bias that required Justice Benjamin's recusal."

"Our decision today addresses an extraordinary situation where the Constitution requires recusal," he added.

Hugh Caperton, whose small company was driven into bankruptcy by Massey, had appealed the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court after the West Virginia ruling.

The case of Caperton vs. A.T. Massey Coal split Kennedy's colleagues along the usual liberal-conservative lines.

Kennedy's opinion was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.
Supreme Court rules that campaign contributions can create perception of judicial bias - Los Angeles Times



THREE MILLION dollar donation.
And along liberal / conservative lines, the conservatives refused to recognize the bias situation...
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Old 06-08-2009, 04:00 PM
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Default Re: Supreme Court rules that campaign contributions can create perception of judicial

Come...let us reason together...
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Old 06-08-2009, 04:05 PM
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Default Re: Supreme Court rules that campaign contributions can create perception of judicial

If I were in a state in which judges were elected I'd be SCREAMING to get the system changed immediately!

Quote:
Originally Posted by foundit66 View Post
THREE MILLION dollar donation.
And along liberal / conservative lines, the conservatives refused to recognize the bias situation...
So did the liberals. Kennedy even says that in his opinion. However, it's never so simple as that when it comes to Supreme Court rulings.

Here are some of the reasons for dissent:

Quote:
But the dissenting justices predicted that the decision would generate groundless litigation and undermine confidence in the judiciary. “It is an old cliché,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in a dissent, “but sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.”

“The end result,” the chief justice wrote, “will do far more to erode public confidence in judicial impartiality than an isolated failure to recuse in a particular case.”

Chief Justice Roberts, writing for himself and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr., said that “the standard the majority articulates — ‘probability of bias’ — fails to provide clear, workable guidance for future cases.”

He followed this observation with a list of 40 numbered questions that “courts will now have to determine.” Among them: How much money is too much money? Must the judge cast the deciding vote? Do contributions from trade associations or interest groups count?

“Today’s opinion,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “requires state and federal judges simultaneously to act as political scientists (why did candidate X win the election?), economists (was the financial support disproportionate?) and psychologists (is there likely to be a debt of gratitude?).”

Justice Scalia, in a separate dissent, said Monday’s decision illustrated a larger jurisprudential problem.

“The court today continues its quixotic quest to right all wrongs and repair all imperfections through the Constitution,” Justice Scalia wrote.

“Should judges sometimes recuse themselves even when the clear commands of our prior due process law do not require it?” he asked. “Undoubtedly. The relevant question, however, is whether we do more good than harm by seeking to correct this imperfection through expansion of our constitutional mandate in a manner ungoverned by any discernible rule. The answer is obvious.”
I find those arguments reasonable and agree with them. That's not to say I don't agree that there was potential bias and the judge should have recused himself. I just think this cure as Justice Roberts said is worse than the disease. There's now a vague standard that every state is going to have to try to interepret...
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Old 06-08-2009, 04:26 PM
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Default Re: Supreme Court rules that campaign contributions can create perception of judicial

5-4?!?!?!?...
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Old 06-08-2009, 04:48 PM
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Post Re: Supreme Court rules that campaign contributions can create perception of judicial

Quote:
He followed this observation with a list of 40 numbered questions that “courts will now have to determine.” Among them: How much money is too much money? Must the judge cast the deciding vote? Do contributions from trade associations or interest groups count?
"Slippery slope" works both ways.

For some, they argue "you can't allow this, otherwise 'that' will happen"
But for the flip side, you have "you can't restrict this, otherwise 'that' could also be restricted"

At the end of the day, this donation was $3 million dollars.
The dissenters are saying you cannot even draw a line at $3 million dollars.

Okay. So can we draw a line at $5 million?
$15 million?
$105 million?

The dissenters are refusing to say it's wrong for fear of the consequences.
Quite frankly, while we may not agree on WHERE the line should be drawn, the NEED FOR A LINE is irrefutable.

We have gone from recusing judges when there is a PERCEPTION of bias, to demanding that judges shouldn't have to be recused over OBVIOUS PROBLEMS of bias.
And THAT is a slippery slope as well...
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Old 06-08-2009, 07:30 PM
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Default Re: Supreme Court rules that campaign contributions can create perception of judicial

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael1 View Post
If I were in a state in which judges were elected I'd be SCREAMING to get the system changed immediately!
Appointing judges is also political.
Anyone care to offer a solution?
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Old 06-08-2009, 10:35 PM
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Default Re: Supreme Court rules that campaign contributions can create perception of judicial

Quote:
Originally Posted by nursej007 View Post
Appointing judges is also political.
Anyone care to offer a solution?
Appointing judges is LESS political than electing them. Theoretically at least a State Supreme Court nominee has to go through a bit more scrutiny. Realistically the same candidate doesn't.

I guess you could call me out here. I'm always for democracy but not in this scenario. Judges shouldn't be voted in to STATE level positions, because at some point money influences too much.

The judiciary should be about legal competence, not bribe money or perceived bribe money as is the case. Either way the SCOTUS ruling doesn't address that.

A more proper thing would have been to throw the case out.

Save that, it should have been thrown back to the states that still elect judges.

As it stands, the vague SCOTUS ruling simply invites the next lawsuit.
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Old 06-09-2009, 08:41 AM
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Default Re: Supreme Court rules that campaign contributions can create perception of judicial

Quote:
Originally Posted by foundit66 View Post
At the end of the day, this donation was $3 million dollars.
The dissenters are saying you cannot even draw a line at $3 million dollars.

Okay. So can we draw a line at $5 million?
$15 million?
$105 million?

The dissenters are refusing to say it's wrong for fear of the consequences.
Quite frankly, while we may not agree on WHERE the line should be drawn, the NEED FOR A LINE is irrefutable.
But drawing that line is not the Supreme Court's role. You can read the dissenting opinions, so please do so. The very first thing Roberts is quoted as saying is that this is a case where the cure might be worse than the disease. States who have elected judges need to make LAWS regarding these things because this ruling solves nothing.
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