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Justices should recuse themselves when hearing cases involving their donors

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When you step into a courtroom, you want to be assured that those who are deciding your case will do so fairly, without any possible conflicts of interest. Unfortunately, that is not the case in Wisconsin. Members of Wisconsin’s Supreme Court routinely accept political donations, then hear and decide cases involving those who have lined their pockets. The latest example involves the newest member of Wisconsin’s highest court. Justice Dan Kelley ruled with the conservative majority in a decision involving the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. That is despite the fact that Kelly had accepted $1000 campaign contributions from two members of the Board of Directors of that organization. And he didn’t take the campaign cash years ago. The contributions came in the days immediately before and after the high court’s decision. As if that weren’t egregious enough, Kelly once served on an advisory board for the organization. And that organization had endorsed Kelly’s appointment to the state’s high court by then Governor Walker. Perhaps this is all coincidence. Perhaps Justice Kelly was not influenced by his close ties to those who argued the case before him. But that line needs to be much more clear. Wisconsin’s highest court should adopt rules that force judges to recuse themselves when they hear legal cases involving their political donors. That is the only way we can be assured that justice is being served.

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