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Law professor addresses constitutional threats to state judicial independence

July 22, 2011

Loyola University New Orleans College of 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.

Crusto’s presentation, “Constitutional Intrusion into State Judicial Independence,” explored judges’ ethical duty to self-recuse when hearing matters involving campaign contributors, in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s Caperton and Citizens United decisions.

In the Caperton case, the 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 event focused on the nature of conscious and unconscious judicial bias, the appearance of judicial impropriety in elected judgeships, and public campaign finance reforms. Deeming Caperton 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 his presentation to the bar and law journal publications. For more information, contact Crusto at mfcrusto@loyno.edu.

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