Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Mr. Massey Goes to Washington

Today was the big day in D.C., as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Caperton, et al., v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., et al., aka the case about whether a judge who gets a $3 million campaign boost from one person should step aside when said person's big case comes before the court. Lyle Denniston has a good write up of the proceedings over at SCOTUSBlog, but you can read the transcript for yourself, too.

After a brief once over, it looks like whatever opinion comes out at the end of the process is going to be fractured and contentious. It's clear that several justices (guess who) don't appear willing to constitutionalize West Virginia's judicial recusal system. You'd think that means a 6-3 for Caperton, particularly given Stevens's comment that:

We have never confronted a case as extreme as this before.
If Caperton wins, it's unclear what it would mean going forward. It may come down to a very narrow ruling that would do little than resolve the current case. Or it could signal a seismic shift in the way courts work. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

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