The Brennan Center for Justice has recommended that Wisconsin take four steps to reform its rules for judicial recusals:
- Establish an objective standard for recusals, such as that suggested by Justice Patrick Crooks to a Wisconsin legislative committee, calling for judicial disqualification whenever a judge's "impartiality might reasonably be questioned."
- Create a review process in cases when a judge denies a recusal motion, such as having the matter decided by the remaining members of the court. Adam Skaggs, a senior legal counsel for the center, says at least nine other state supreme courts have a mechanism wherein others on the court can weigh in on cases in which one of their fellows declines a recusal request.
- Require written decisions on recusal requests, to establish "the underlying rationale or facts," and provide guidance to other judges and courts.
- Adopt language acknowledging that financial support for a judge from a litigant can necessitate disqualification, depending in part on the contribution's size, importance and timing.
Bill Lueders is the Money and Politics Project director at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. The project, a partnership of the Center and MapLight, is supported by the Open Society Institute.
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