Another Self-Inflicted Wound for Supremes

In this update: 1. Rule frees state judges to decide cases involving campaign backers 2. Appointed judiciary no panacea Another Self-Inflicted Wound for Supremes

Email date: 7/8/10

In this update:
1. Rule frees state judges to decide cases involving campaign backers
2. Appointed judiciary no panacea

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Rule frees state judges to decide cases involving campaign backers
As expected, the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted 4-3 yesterday to give final approval to an amendment to the state judicial ethics code recommended by two powerful lobbying groups allowing judges to hear and decide cases involving their biggest campaign supporters. For more on the court's action, go here.

As noted in a commentary posted this morning on our Big Money Blog, the new rule is at odds with a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year in a West Virginia case that a judge's participation in a case involving major contributors to the judge's election runs afoul of constitutional protections of the right to due process. The blog post also focuses on the state Supreme Court's inability to decide what to do about judicial misconduct charges against Justice Michael Gableman.

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Appointed judiciary no panacea
Some observers take the ethical lapses and growing dysfunction on the state Supreme Court as evidence that Wisconsin should do away with its practice of electing state judges. But as Dave Zweifel pointed out in his latest column in The Capital Times, appointing judges offers no failsafe protection from conflicts of interest and special interest influence in the courts. He tells of the federal judge who owns considerable stock in the oil-drilling company Transocean and who struck down the federal moratorium on deep-water drilling.