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Reforming Judicial Recusal Rules

These pages detail the Brennan Center’s work on issues of judicial recusal and disqualification.

Published: November 25, 2014

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. 





Law Journal Articles