Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Supreme Court Says Due Process Required West Virginia Justice To Recuse Himself From Case Involving Big Donor to His Campaign

Per BNA's U.S. Law Week, June 9, 2009:

A justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals should have recused himself from a case because the biggest donor to his judicial election campaign was one of the parties in the case, the U.S. Supreme Court holds. The case has a $50 million verdict hanging in the balance, and the court says that the probability of bias was so extreme that due process required the justice's recusal.

The court notes that not every campaign contribution will require recusal, but says that “there is a serious risk of actual bias—based on objectively reasonable perceptions—when a person with a personal stake in a particular case had a significant and disproportionate influence in placing the judge on the case by raising funds or directing the judge's election campaign when the case was pending or imminent.” Supporters of the ruling say that it will put faith back in the judicial system, while detractors are saying that the new standard is “murky” and “ominous."


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