Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser was able to raise very large amounts of money during the recount that followed his very close re-election victory this past spring, the Wisconsin State Journal reports. And what’s more, one of his key lawyers from that contest has pending business before the court.
Due to quirk of state election laws, the candidates were able to raise unlimited donations from individuals for the recount. Prosser raised over $270,000 in all, though in fact he still has some debt to pay off. (The largest donations were $50,000 each from Pennisylvania conservative activist John Templeton Jr., and his wife.)
None of the big donors have any cases pending before the court — but if they do come to the court in the future, Prosser would not be required to recuse himself. In a contentious case in 2009, the court’s 4-3 conservative majority adopted ethics rules stating that campaign contributions alone are not enough to force a judge from a case.
More interesting, though, is that Prosser’s bills included $75,000 to the law firm headed up by Prosser’s recount lawyer Jim Troupis — who does have a case pending before the court, challenging state regulations of political speech, which will be argued on September 16. And for that case, Prosser will not be recusing himself.
The paper reports:
In April, Prosser said he had not thought much about whether he could remain on the case but that his initial impression was that he could do so. Prosser could not be reached Friday, but his campaign director, Brian Nemoir, said Prosser planned to stay on the case and could remain impartial.
“Justice Prosser’s commitment is to the oath of office,” Nemoir said. “By no means would any contractual obligation (with a lawyer) cloud that obligation.”
The money that went to Troupis’ office was for expenses and work done by other attorneys. Troupis did not bill for his own time working on the recount, according to Nemoir.
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