Law Professor Dialogues on Constitutional Threats to State Judicial Independence

Law Professor Mitch Crusto facilitated a discussion among Louisiana judges and lawyers on the U.S. Constitution’s threats to state judicial independence, at the Louisiana Judicial Council’s 17th Annual “CLE of Louisiana” in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on July 11, 2011. Crusto’s presentation, entitled “Constitutional Intrusion into State Judicial Independence,” explored judges’ ethical duty to self-recuse when hearing matters involving campaign contributors, in light of recent U.S. Supreme Court’s Caperton and Citizens United decisions. In the Caperton Case, the Supreme Court established a 14th Amendment Due Process test for what Crusto coined “contributor bias,” where judges decide cases involving campaign contributors. Crusto also led discussion on the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Citizens United, which effectively allows corporations and other organizations to make unlimited campaign contributions. The Socratic dialogue focused on the nature of conscious and unconscious judicial bias, the appearance of judicial impropriety in elected judgeships, and public campaign finance reforms. Deeming Capeton and Citizens United “the most significant federal assault on the state judicial independence in contemporary constitutional law,” Crusto urged that bench and bar continue the serious work of protecting the judicial independence of state courts as bastions of democracy. Crusto plans to submit the presentation to the bar and law journal publications.