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"American Bar seeking rules on when judges must step aside from cases"

The Birmingham News reports: The American Bar Association, in a newly adopted policy, is urging states to set rules for judges to step down from cases involving campaign contributors, a sign of growing national anxiety over the influence of political money in the judicial system.

"It does raise it to the national level and starts the debates in the state legislatures, but more importantly it's on the radar of the chief justices of every state," said Tommy Wells, a Birmingham lawyer and former president of the ABA.

Alabama was at the forefront 16 years ago, when legislators passed a law calling for local judges to recuse themselves if a party or their lawyer contributed $2,000 to the judge's election; $4,000 for state appellate judges. But in a quirky stalemate between the Alabama Attorney General's Office and the Alabama Supreme Court, the law has never been enforced.

The issue has only gotten more serious since the Alabama law was passed. Spending on judicial elections has skyrocketed; questions about whether judges should be picked in partisan elections have increased; and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that campaign donations can create a risk of bias by the judge, and, separately, that corporations or labor unions can independently spend unlimited amounts to influence elections. Read the whole story --> American Bar seeking rules on when judges must step aside from cases | al.com

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