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SCOTUS: Elected Judges Must Recuse Themselves In 'Extreme' Cases Of Donor Bias

Now if only we could get the appointed judges to recuse themselves on similar conflicts: WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled Monday that el

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Now if only we could get the appointed judges to recuse themselves on similar conflicts:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled Monday that elected judges must step aside from cases when large campaign contributions from interested parties create the appearance of bias.

By a 5-4 vote in a case from West Virginia, the court said that a judge who remained involved in a lawsuit filed against the company of the most generous supporter of his election deprived the other side of the constitutional right to a fair trial.

With multimillion-dollar judicial election campaigns on the rise, the court's decision Monday could have widespread significance. Justice at Stake, which tracks campaign spending in judicial elections, says judges are elected in 39 states and that candidates for the highest state courts have raised more than $168 million since 2000.

The West Virginia case involved more than $3 million spent by the chief executive of Massey Energy Co. to help elect state Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin. At the same time, Massey was appealing a verdict, which now totals $82.7 million with interest, in a dispute with a local coal company. Benjamin refused to step aside from the case, despite repeated requests, and was part of a 3-2 decision to overturn the verdict.

The Massey Energy case was about as clear a case of a corporation trying to buy a verdict as I've ever seen - so egregious, it inspired John Grisham's "The Appeal." Nice to see this ruling.

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