Ethics

Judges Face Stricter Guidelines

When West Virginia Justice Brent Benjamin cast the deciding vote that overturned a $50 million fine for a major coal company there was just one problem: The same company had contributed more than $3 million to Benjamin's 2004 campaign. Now, the Supreme Court has ruled that Benjamin should have recused himself from the case, setting a precedent that will lead to much stricter ethics guidelines for judges across the country. Judges will now have to tread much more carefully when accepting campaign donations, as they will have to consider the likelihood that their donors' companies may end up appearing in their courtrooms. As has been typical in Supreme Court cases as of late, the Justices were split along ideological lines, with Chief Justice Roberts writing the conservative wing's dissenting opinion.