High Court Tackles Campaign Financing For years, the Supreme Court has refused to be drawn into the controversy over whether campaign contributions to judicial candidates create a conflict of interest. But Friday, amid growing concern over the role of money in state court elections, the justices agreed to review a case testing whether elected judges can participate in cases involving large campaign contributors.

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High Court Tackles Campaign Financing

High Court Tackles Campaign Financing

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For years, the Supreme Court has refused to be drawn into the controversy over whether campaign contributions to judicial candidates create a conflict of interest. But Friday, amid growing concern over the role of money in state court elections, the justices agreed to review a case testing whether elected judges can participate in cases involving large campaign contributors.

LYNN NEARY, Host:

The U.S. Supreme Court is stepping into the tricky question of judicial ethics in state courts. For years, the court has refused to be drawn into the controversy over whether campaign contributions to judicial candidates create a conflict of interest. But yesterday, amid growing concern over the role of money in state court elections, the justices agreed to review a case testing whether elected judges can participate in cases involving large campaign contributors. NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports.

NINA TOTENBERG: In appealing to the Supreme Court, Massey's competitors, represented by former Solicitor General Ted Olson, were backed by an unusual coalition of groups from the left, right and center.

TED OLSON: You will accept a result that is adverse to you. You might not like it, but you will accept it if you believe that the process is fair and even-handed. If people perceive that justice is for sale or perceive that justice is - judges will have a hard time being fair, then our system begins to crumble.

TOTENBERG: What's more, no state has established criteria to tell judges when they should recuse themselves. The American Bar Association has proposed a model code that would require recusal from any case in which a lawyer or a litigant contributed more than a set amount to a judge. Even though the code leaves blank the amount, to be filled in by each state, no state has yet adopted it. Reform advocates are pinning their hopes on the Supreme Court, hoping it will tell judges they have to establish and abide by disqualification rules for campaign contributors. Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.

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