Reforming Judicial Recusal Rules
This pages details the Brennan Center's work on issues of judicial recusal and disqualification.
In 2009, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Caperton v. A. T. Massey Coal Co. that a litigant’s due process rights can be violated when an elected judge refuses to recuse themselves from a case in which the judge received significant campaign support from a litigant. Caperton has become the leading Supreme Court case on judicial disqualification. The Court's majority urged states to adopt recusal rules more robust than the minimum requirements necessary, but many states have failed to do so. At the same time, spending in state supreme court elections is on the rise, creating more opportunities for judges’ campaigns to be funded by current and future litigants.
The Brennan Center for Justice examined recusal reform in two reports published in 2008 and 2011. In 2014, the Center built upon this work by co-hosting a symposium that examined the state of recusal rules five years after the Caperton ruling was handed down. A variety of panelists - including judges, American Bar Association members, professors, and advocates - focused on different areas of the Caperton decision, as well as issues of bias and disqualification.
A full transcript of the symposium was published in Volume 18 of the New York University Journal of Legislation and Public Policy in the summer 2015.
Videos and descriptions of all four panels at the 2014 Symposium can be found here.
A collection of Brennan Center reports, analyses, law journal articles, and advocacy material related to judicial recusal reform can be found below.
- Judicial Recusal Reform: Toward Independent Consideration of Disqualification (Matthew Menendez, Dorothy Samuels; November 30, 2016)
- Promoting Fair and Impartial Courts through Recusal Reform (Adam Skaggs, Andrew Silver; August 8, 2011)
- Fair Courts: Setting Recusal Standards (James Sample, David Pozen, Michael Young; April 1, 2008)
- Courts, Campaigns, and Corruption: Judicial Recusal Five Years After Caperton (November 14, 2014)
- Brennan Center Comments Supporting Wisconsin Recusal Petition (Kate Berry, Nathaniel Sobel; March 15, 2017)
- Letter to Tennessee Supreme Court on Proposed Judicial Conduct Rules (Adam Skaggs; November 9, 2011)
- Letter to Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Proposed Amendments to Code of Conduct (Adam Skaggs; May 12, 2011)
- Proposed Part 151 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts (Adam Skaggs; March 15, 2011)
- Letter of Support for the Fund for Modern Courts' Recusal Proposal (Adam Skaggs, Frederick A. O. Schwarz, Jr.; October 4, 2010)
- Letter to the Wash. State Supreme Court Code of Judicial Conduct Task Force (Adam Skaggs; April 30, 2010)
- Letter to the Iowa Supreme Court (Adam Skaggs; March 18, 2010)
- Letter to the Wisconsin Supreme Court Regarding its Proposed Revisions to Recusal Petitions (Adam Skaggs; January 21, 2010)
- Testimony of Adam Skaggs to House Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy (Adam Skaggs; December 16, 2009)
- Brennan Center and Justice at Stake Joint Letter to Michigan Supreme Court (Adam Skaggs; July 31, 2009)
- Judicial Recusal Reform - Two Years After Caperton (June 2, 2011)
- 2009-2010 State Judicial Reform Efforts (July 20, 2010)
- Recusal Standards After Caperton v. Massey (July 16, 2009)
Law Journal Articles
- The Best Defense: Why Elected Courts Should Lead Recusal Reform (Deborah Goldberg, James Sample, David Pozen; June 1, 2007)