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Massey Ruling Said to Highlight Problems With Judicial Elections

June 11, 2009  ·  By HM&M


The Wall Street Journal (6/10, Koppel) reports, “The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this week calling for judges” to recuse themselves from “cases involving big political donors confronts the growing role of money in the U.S. judicial system.” The Journal adds, “Political donations to judicial candidates at the highest state courts have soared in recent years, creating concerns that money is eroding public confidence in the system.”

NBC Nightly News (6/8, story 3, P. Williams) reported that the Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co. “reads like it’s right out of a John Grisham novel. The justices ruled today that state court judges that get big campaign contributions cannot sit in judgment of their biggest contributors”. This case, which is a particularly poignant example that favors the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, “comes from West Virginia, where a coal company executive spent $3 million to get Judge Brent Benjamin elected to the state supreme court. He then ruled in favor of that coal company in a $50 million case.”

Concluding, the Washinton Post (6/10) says, “States should consider abandoning judicial elections for a merit selection system that better insulates judges from the corrosive influences of money and politics.” At Hurley McKenna & Mertz, we favor the Massey ruling requiring judges to recuse themselves when large contributors come before them.

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