On Sunday, June 30, 2024, the Wisconsin State Journal published an op-ed outlining recent controversies surrounding judges accepting gifts and failing to recuse themselves from cases involving donors or personal interests.

The op-ed began by discussing revelations that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had for years accepted expensive trips on private jets and accommodation in exotic locations from Republican megadonor Harlan Crow without properly disclosing the gifts. When a case involving one of Crow’s companies came before the Supreme Court, Thomas failed to recuse himself from the case.

The author went on to note other examples of Supreme Court justices failing to uphold high ethical standards. Justice Samuel Alito was found to have accepted gifts from a billionaire GOP donor without disclosure, and later sided with that donor in a case before the court. More recently, flags associated with the January 6th insurrection were flown outside Alito’s homes, calling into question his impartiality in related cases. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was also alleged to have misused government resources to promote and sell her books.

Moving to the state level, the op-ed criticized recent Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates for staking out positions on controversial issues likely to come before the court, undermining perceptions of an independent judiciary. A specific example given was Justice Janet Protasiewicz, who marched against former governor Scott Walker’s union law but may end up ruling on challenges to that same law.

The article concluded by stressing the importance of judges upholding high ethical standards, avoiding even the appearance of bias, and recusing themselves from cases involving personal interests or donations. Failing to do so jeopardizes public trust in the impartiality of the judicial system. Judges must carefully shield themselves and their rulings from any political or financial influences, according to the op-ed.



Source: Wisconsin State Journal