Fear of the Unknown: Judicial Ethics after Caperton
11 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2010 Last revised: 17 Mar 2010
Date Written: March 9, 2010
In Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., the Court recently found that an elected appellate judge’s participation in a company’s appeal violated due process in light of the substantial financial contributions made by the company’s chairman toward the judge’s election. The Court explained that “there is a serious risk of actual bias” on the judge’s part when, as here, “a person with a personal stake in a particular case had a significant and disproportionate influence in placing the judge on the case.” The dissenting Justices targeted the vagueness of the Court’s standard, predicting that it would result in a flood of recusal motions which would bring the judicial process into disrepute. This Essay examines the dissent’s prediction and offers a host of reasons why it is unlikely to come true.
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