Buying Justice: Caperton v. A.T. Massey: Campaign Dollars, Mandatory Recusal and Due Process
28 MISSISSIPPI COLLEGE LAW REVIEW 359 (2009)
22 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2014
Date Written: March 1, 2009
After the nation's fourth largest coal company, A.T. Massey, drove its competitor, Harmon Mining Co., into bankruptcy, a jury found that the company committed fraud in its business dealings and awarded its bankrupt competitor $50 million. Political issues surrounding judicial campaign funding that arose soon after raised concerns about the politicalization of the judiciary and the effects of campaign dollars on "blind justice."
This paper addresses the issue of drawing a "constitutional" line for judicial recusal when required due to the "appearance" or "probability" of bias based on a party's financial contribution to a judge's election campaign. The paper also reviews the history of judicial elections, discusses the scant pre-Caperton cases in which the Supreme Court has found a violation of due process based on the objective probability of judicial bias, and discusses the Caperton decision and the legal minefields that will arise from recognizing a new category of judicial disqualification cases that create substantive due process rights based on a party's financial support to a judicial campaign election. The author concludes by suggesting that state laws and judicial canons can and have remedied the appearance of "buying justice" fostered by judicial campaign financing, without expanding substantive due process and creating a "constitutional" recusal rule.
Keywords: Judicial campaign financing, judicial elections, judicial bias, judicial disqualification, constitutional recusal rule
JEL Classification: K10, K20, K40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation