09 June 2009

The Impact of Benjamin's Forced Recusal (Updated)

Following up on Monday's 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court "that faults state Justice Brent Benjamin for not recusing himself from a case involving a generous campaign supporter," The Associated Press reports that the ruling "may aid a pending review of West Virginia's court system, but legal experts differ on its overall effect."

Groups such as the Justice at Stake Campaign, which weighed in on the case's prevailing side, welcomed the ruling as "a critical first step," said Bert Brandenburg, its executive director. "But states that elect judges must get to work now, to keep campaign cash out of our courts of law."

However, others observe that the ruling may prove too case-specific.

"If the people who are hostile to judicial elections are able to expand the decision, it would making have judicial elections very difficult, but as written this decision is extremely narrow and seems only to apply to the most extreme situation," said lawyer James Bopp, who filed a brief on behalf of the James Madison Center for Free Speech in support of the losing side.

AP also notes that the ruling comes just as "Gov. Joe Manchin commissioned the latest in a series of studies of the state's court system."

"Today's Supreme Court decision is one more piece of information that needs to be considered in making recommendations about our judicial system and any reforms that the commission may recommend," Manchin spokesman Matt Turner told AP.

Update: Coverage of and reaction to Monday's ruling has been national in scope, with numerous major media outlets reporting and opining on the outcome.

Among them is the Law Blog of The Wall Street Journal, which posted thusly: "We checked in with assorted and sundry smart people to get their view on the Massey Coal ruling. The consensus reaction, it seems: happiness."

Update II: The WSJ's editorial writers are less thrilled.

No comments: