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Indiana attorney gets award for work on recusals

IL Staff
December 31, 2009
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A partner at an Indianapolis law firm is being recognized by the National Center for State Courts for his work on judicial recusals, and he has some ideas that state chief justices and Indiana's top court could find interesting.

George T. Patton Jr. of Bose McKinney & Evans, a Washington D.C.-based partner in the litigation group who co-chairs the firm's appellate group, praises the Indiana Supreme Court's leadership on judicial recusals and its code of conduct, but thinks that one change might be worth exploring here.

With five justices, one recusal could leave the court with a 2-2 split decision because of the four remaining to decide a case. Other states have adopted policies allowing lower appellate or trial judges to fill in for recused judges, and Indiana would benefit from that practice, Patton said.

The other suggestion Patton has for chief justices nationally is to adopt the American Bar Association's model judicial canons, something Indiana did and put into effect in January 2009.

His recommendations come after a June decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Company, Inc., 129 S.Ct. 2252 (2009), which offered guidance on how judges should recuse themselves in cases where they've received campaign contributions from litigants or have an interest. Patton considers it at the top of the list in state court impact and in the top five of all federal and state cases that will likely be remembered in the future.

Patton's work stems from an amicus curiae brief he crafted and filed on behalf of the Conference of Chief Justices - something that had a significant impact on the high court's decision-making in Caperton. That brief was mentioned eight times in the opinion, he said.

Since that ruling, Patton has closely monitored the national scene on how state courts are coping with Caperton. So far, he hasn't observed any "flood of recusal motions" as some feared could happen as a result of the decision. The topic has also spurred congressional hearings on the issue of recusals in recent months, and Indiana University Maurer School of Law - Bloomington professor Charles Geyh has testified on the issue.

For his work, Patton is receiving the NCSC's 2009 Distinguished Service Award, considered the organization's highest recognition that is presented annually for contributions to the judicial administration field.

Patton will receive his award Feb. 2 at the chief justices' conference in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He'll give a 30-minute presentation entitled "Recusal: Where Art Thou?" which also delves into his previous work on the related SCOTUS decision of Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002) that addressed judicial free speech issues and has led to conflicting caselaw on judicial canons nationally.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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