08 June 2009

U.S. Supreme Court: Benjamin Should Have Recused Self from Massey Case

By a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that "that elected judges must step aside from cases when large campaign contributions from interested parties create the appearance of bias," The Associated Press reports.

"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," the article said. "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."

"Not every campaign contribution by a litigant or attorney creates a probability of bias that requires a judge's recusal, but this is an exceptional case," AP quotes Justice Anthony Kennedy as saying in his opinion for the court.

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