cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday found, in a five to four decision, that the appearance of bias in judges must be avoided. In this case from West Virginia, there was a single person who spent some $3 million dollars to get his favored candidate elected, and that judge then found in favor of that person's company in a trial.
For starters, this seems to be a reasonably clear cut case. The judge should have recused himself but chose not to do so. There is no indication that a court in that case moved to reprimand the judge. This seems a perfect example of judicial bias that was, essentially, bought and paid for.
The repercussions of this ruling, however, will echo through the country for years and years to come. Wisconsin has seen this kind of complaint in the past couple of years at the state Supreme Court level involving two conservative judicial candidates that won seats on the high court. Both were favored by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and were opposed by WEAC and several other liberal groups.
One justice was reprimanded by the court and has paid a fine. She and the other are the targets of attorney's filings to cause them to remove themselves from various cases. This would, of course, cause a swing from conservative to liberal, and, hence, the attempt to cause the justices to remove themselves. The effort is, in my opinion, more politically driven than it is a quest for impartial justice to be rendered.
My problem with the decision yesterday is just that; there is no clear cut situation, in most such instances, as there was in the West Virginia case. This ruling is going to cause all kinds of new efforts to artificially change courts that have elected judges seated. My concern is that our system of justice will be perverted by this outside maneuvering by special interest groups who will assuredly take up those challenges.
Who will define "appearance of bias"? What ground rules will be established to "control" election races and will that prejudice the outcomes based upon which party is in power at the time?
Imagine, for instance, that this decision had been rendered before the Florida Supreme Court sat to determine who was the properly-elected winner of the presidential race between Bush and Gore. I suspect that there would have been a huge effort by both sides to "rig" the court to the benefit of one party over the other.
I fear that our highest court has loosed the demons from Pandora's Box.
The Curmudgeon Blog today is titled "Creating & Saving Jobs".