More on Caperton and Recusals

I previously posted about the Supreme Court’s decision in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Company, the basic holding of which is that a judge must recuse him- or herself from a case when someone with a “personal stake” in the matter played a “significant and disproportionate” role in the judge’s election, such as by raising substantial sums for the judge.

I argued that the case would have a limited impact in North Carolina, because the Code of Judicial Conduct already requires judges to recuse themselves when their impartiality can reasonably be questioned. Upon reading the post, my very smart colleague Michael Crowell told me that I was compleletely wrong politely suggested that, in practice, the Code has been interpreted to require a very strong showing of bias before recusal is mandated. In other words, he suggested that Caperton might actually require recusal in some circumstances that prior law didn’t.

He makes his case at considerable length in this paper, which is by far the best explanation I’ve seen of the recusal issue post-Caperton. It’s important reading for those thinking about the potential uses, and abuses, of Caperton, and for those interested in judicial administration.

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