Prof. James Sample Discusses Judicial Recusal Standards

James Sample, Associate Professor of Law

Summary Judgments for Jan. 9

By Carlyn Kolker

January 9, 2012

Thomson Reuters


Which raises the question: Is it better to have a threshold contribution level triggering disqualification, like New York, or go the Tennessee way, setting more flexible groundrules?

I caught up with James Sample, a professor at Hofstra Law School who studies judicial elections and the courts, who noted that, while bright-line rules like New York’s may provide some clarity to litigants, there are reasons to have more elastic rules, too.

“One size doesn’t fit all in the real world,” said Sample. A $500 donation to a judge in a case with $1 billion is unlikely to make much of a difference, noted Sample. By contrast, a small donation to a judge in a small town can be more persuasive.

Sample says that, against the backdrop of expensive political campaigns, states are now taking up Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s invitation in Caperton to promulgate their own rules on judicial recusal, setting the bar higher.

“States are finally paying attention,” said Sample. “It’s federalism at work. The Supreme Court in Caperton said ‘this is the floor,’ [in terms of recusal standards] and states are free to do more. And now states are doing more.”

Read the full article at thomsonreuters.com.

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