Fixing Judicial Recusals

Published in: Inside Sources, Commentary, 2016

Posted on RAND.org on March 16, 2016

by Kathryn Kuznitsky, James M. Anderson

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If judges or justices own stock in the company of a litigant, they must recuse themselves from hearing the case. While these recusals help ensure impartiality at the level of the individual judge, what effect do they have on the pool of judges that hear cases involving publicly held corporations? What judges are likely to hold stock that requires recusal and how does that affect the characteristics of the remaining group of judges that hear these cases? Our research found that the pool of judges who hear cases involving large corporations differs substantially from the remainder of the federal bench. Recusals as a result of such stock ownership make the panels hearing cases involving corporate litigants more likely to have male judges, African-American judges, younger judges, judges with fewer personal assets, judges appointed by a Republican president, and judges who were former law professors. This bias toward certain attributes and characteristics could be troubling.

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