Last modified: Tuesday, March 3, 2009
IU law professor comments on SCOTUS case
EDITORS: Indiana University Maurer School of Law Professor and judicial expert Charles Geyh is available to comment on Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Company Inc., which was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court today.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 3, 2009
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Charles Geyh, the John F. Kimberling Professor of Law at the IU Maurer School of Law, said today (March 3) that the outcome of the case could have a significant impact on the way Americans elect judges and how much confidence they have in their judicial officials.
"In this case, a state supreme court justice received more than $3 million in support for his election campaign from a defendant in a pending case and, after the justice won the election, refused to disqualify himself from hearing the case and cast the decisive vote in favor of the defendant," Geyh said. "The issue is whether by deciding this case, the justice deprived the plaintiff of his right to due process of law under the United States Constitution."
Don L. Blankenship, chairman, CEO, and president of A.T. Massey Coal Co., gave more than $3 million to support Justice Brent Benjamin's election. At the time of the election, the company was preparing to appeal a $50-million verdict to the West Virginia Supreme Court.
Geyh said that the heart of the issue involves determining when a judge should step down to prevent bias, or even the appearance of bias, from being shown in the courtroom.
"This is a case with wide-ranging implications for the future of judicial elections, judicial impartiality and public confidence in the courts," Geyh said. "With judicial elections becoming ever more contentious and expensive affairs, and with nearly 90 percent of the public thinking that a judge is influenced by their campaign contributions, much hangs in the balance."
Geyh, whose teaching and scholarship focus on the operation of state and federal courts in relation to the political branches of government and the legal profession, serves as co-reporter to the American Bar Association Joint Commission to Evaluate the Model Code of Judicial Conduct. Geyh is the director of the ABA Judicial Disqualification Project and is the author of When Courts and Congress Collide: The Struggle for Control of America's Judicial System and co-author of Judicial Conduct and Ethics. Geyh can be reached at 812-855-3210 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.