Des Moines, IA – September 1, 2009 – According to an editorial in the latest issue of Judicature, the journal of the American Judicature Society, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Caperton v. Massey Coal Company is a wake-up call for states to take disqualification seriously.
The editorial explains that “If state judicial systems have procedures in place to ensure that judges understand and follow more exacting disqualification rules, legitimate due process problems need never arise.” Caperton held that West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin’s failure to recuse himself in a case involving a litigant who supported his election campaign was a violation of due process.
The editorial recommends judicial education programs that identify factors judges should consider when deciding whether campaign support they have received gives rise to a disqualifying appearance of partiality; having contested disqualification motions assigned to a different judge for final resolution; and, in the highest courts of each state, establishing a procedure to review disqualification decisions of individual justices by the remainder of the court or a special panel of judges. The editorial concludes that such procedures will foster public confidence in the expeditious administration of justice.
The full editorial is available at www.ajs.org or by calling 800-626-4089.