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Ben Edelstein to present at the 2020 Midwest Political Science Association Conference’s “Public Perceptions of Judicial Institutions” session.

November 6, 2019 / by / Events

Barton Legal S.C. is excited to announce that Ben Edelstein will present his research findings on judicial disqualification at the 78th Annual Midwest Political Science Association Conference in Chicago. Although judicial disqualification can take many forms, Ben’s research focused on the interplay between campaign finance and judicial disqualification in states where judges ascend to the bench through a general election. Unlike federal court judges, who are appointed to the bench for life terms, most state court judges campaign for their seats, which naturally involves raising money from outside sources. Once elected, however, a judge is obligated to neutrally adjudicate the cases before it regardless of which parties—including a potential source of the judge’s campaign funds—are on the opposite sides of the “v.”          

Activists have thus pushed for legislation that mandates judges to recuse themselves from adjudicating cases involving litigants who financed portions of their campaign. The proposed legislation has two primary aims: (i) to avoid the appearance of bias associated with a judge adjudicating cases involving their campaign donors; and (ii) to reduce these donors’ participation in funding judicial campaigns in the first instance. In their forthcoming paper, Ben and Professor Sara Benesh examine judicial elections across the United States from 2010-2018 to determine whether these goals are borne out by the evidence. Their findings demonstrate that states with more stringent legislation governing judicial recusal attract less investment in judicial campaigns, even after controlling for many other potential correlates of campaign fundraising. If laissez-faire campaign finance laws cause citizens to lose faith in the elected judiciary presiding over the court system, these findings suggest that more rigid recusal rules may buttress judicial institutions by removing this potential appearance of bias.

More information about the session can be found here.