Jul 9, 2010

Money talks - but Wisconsin judges won't necessarily have to listen

From the Brennen Center:

"Money talks - but Wisconsin judges won't necessarily have to listen." So states a Wisconsin Law Journal article published last week after the state Supreme Court issued a final order modifying the disqualification standards in the state's Judicial Code of Conduct. The order formally codified new recusal rules that the court initially adopted last October in a contentious 4-3 vote. Under the rules, a party's campaign contributions or independent expenditures, standing alone, cannot compel a judge's recusal.

The final order reflected the heated division on the court over the wisdom of adopting, verbatim, proposed rules submitted by two special interest groups that have been among the biggest spenders in Wisconsin's judicial elections, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the Wisconsin Realtors Association. In a stinging dissent, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley quoted comments submitted by the Brennan Center, which warned that the new rules "threaten to undermine public confidence in the impartiality of Wisconsin's judiciary, which is, and has traditionally been, accountable to the law and the U.S. and Wisconsin Constitutions, not to special interests that inject millions of dollars into campaigns for judicial office in the Badger State."

Peter Hardin, WI Justices Clash in Adopting New Recusal Rule, Gavel Grab, July 8, 2010; Jack Zemlicka, Contributions not enough for recusal, Wisconsin Law Journal, July 2, 2010.

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