U.S. Supreme Court: Constitution Can Require Judges to Sit Out Cases

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Washington Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders recently got in trouble for not recusing himself from a case whose ruling might later help pad his pockets; today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that not recusing yourself can rise to the level of a Constitutional violation. (Full opinion here.) West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin twice ruled to throw out a $50 million verdict against a coal company whose CEO donated millions to help elect him.

Today, the Supreme Court, led by tiebreaker/kingmaker Anthony Kennedy, ruled that, because of the obvious conflicts of interest, Benjamin's refusal to sit the case out violated the Constitution's Due Process Clause. Now the West Virginia Supreme Court must rule on the case again--minus Benjamin.

In Washington, not only did we have Sanders' case, but, like West Virginia, we elect our judges, with all sorts of people and organizations giving to their campaigns--see this feature I wrote last October. So today's ruling could have some application in our neck of the woods.

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