“Recusal as Remedy: Disincentivizing Donors”

Benjamin Edelstein and Sara Benesh have written this article for State Politics & Policy Quarterly. Here is the abstract:

As judicial elections become increasingly expensive, recusal has emerged as a way to address concerns about the impartiality of judges who receive contributions from lawyers or potential litigants. While it is unclear if strict recusal rules are the best remedy for conflicts of interest created by contributions, they may disincentivize potential donors from investing in judicial campaigns by negating their potential goal of influencing decisions. We consider whether donor behavior in judicial campaigns – especially for those donors most likely to be interested in specifically currying favor with judges – responds to differences in recusal standards. Using data from 219 state supreme court races in 22 states from 2010 to 2020, we find that states with stricter recusal rules attract fewer campaign donations to judicial races, and states with more lax rules attract more overall and, most especially, for attorney donors.

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