The high court petition, fall-out from a bitter battle between competing coal companies, asks the justices to resolve “a recurring issue of far-reaching national importance.” When, in the context of campaign contributions, does due process demand a judge’s recusal? Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., No. 08-22.

“Although judicial elections — and contributions to elected judges — are a well-established means of selecting a state judiciary, there will be rare cases where campaign expenditures by a litigant create a constitutionally unacceptable appearance of impropriety. This is such a case,” contends former Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, co-chairman of the appellate and constitutional law group in the Washington office of Los Angeles’ Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

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