Safeguarding the Litigant’s Constitutional Right to a Fair and Impartial Forum: A Due Process Approach to Improprieties Arising from Judicial Campaign Contributions from Lawyers

This Note will argue that the improprieties arising from some campaign contributions are so egregious that they offend the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. Consequently, states must either reform judicial campaigns to eliminate such improprieties, or, through mandatory judicial recusal or disqualification, respect the absolute constitutional right to an impartial forum. Part I of this Note will examine the history of disqualification at common law and in American practice, focusing on the extent to which it has been held to be a requirement of due process. Part II will argue that under the applicable due process standards, a litigant may successfully move to disqualify a judge who has accepted substantial political contributions from the opposing party or counsel. Part III will discuss the inadequacy of judicial recusal – the usual remedy for a denial of an impartial forum – as a remedy in the context of judicial campaign contributions from lawyers. Part III will also suggest that preventing improper influence, by severely limiting lawyers’ contributions to judicial candidates, is the best way for states with elected judiciaries to ensure the impartiality of their judges.