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Illinois: U.S. Supreme Court asked to force recusal of judge because of his campaign contributors

Lyle Denniston reports on SCOTUSblog: Should an elected judge, who accepts large campaign donations, sit on a case that directly affects the financial or business interests of the donors and their associates? Put as an ethical question, the answer would seem to be obvious: No. But the Supreme Court is being asked to rule on that question as a constitutional issue: does the due process clause create a duty to recuse in such a situation?

If the Court agrees to address the issue in that form, it would be drawn deeply into a particularly tangled political thicket: the financing of state judicial campaigns. Among other issues the Justices might have to confront: how close a link between money and a judicial decision, joined in by a judicial recipient of the money, must there be in order to result in a violation of the guarantee of due process? ...

The new question of recusal of elected judges is raised explicitly in a newly filed case from Illinois, involving a justice of that state's Supreme Court, and a ruling in which he cast one of the deciding votes that scuttled a huge verdict against a private insurance company -- a company closely linked to major campaign donations to that justice. The case is Avery, et al., v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. (Filed on Tuesday, it does not yet have an assigned docket number. It probably arrived too late to be decided this Term, if granted.) -- A constitutional duty to recuse?

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