Caperton did not set a "bright line rule" as to how much money should be paid to a judge in election campaign to make his decisions in favor of contributor questionable.
Recently, political satirist John Oliver mocked the process of financial contributions to judicial campaigns, and claimed that financial contributions by parties and attorneys to judges are questionable in any amounts - which is a reasonable view that I share (I do not share John Oliver's views regarding Alabama Chief Judge Roy Moore who refused to obey federal court decision and the U.S. Supreme Court precedent on gay marriage claiming that it is against the U.S. Constitution, see my blog on that subject here).
Enter 50 retired (note that) judges from Wisconsin who somehow considered that they have standing to question Wisconsin rules of judicial recusal and filed a petition to Wisconsin Supreme Court (not to Wisconsin Legislature) to change rules of recusal of judges.
Wisconsin has an interesting history of reacting to Caperton.
After Caperton was decided in 2009 by the U.S. Supreme Court, Wisconsin refused to follow that rule and pronounced, by a judicial decision, that financial contributions to judicial election campaigns in ANY amounts will NOT be considered as a stand-alone mandatory reason for judicial recusal, and Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that candidates to elective office (including judges) are free to coordinate their efforts in judicial election campaign with any advocacy groups, and that those advocacy groups can spend any amounts of money without triggering mandatory disqualification for the elected official from cases relating to the advocacy group or its causes.
Moreover, in 2015, as the retired judges point out in their petition, the Wisconsin State Legislature increased 20 times limits on campaign contributions to elected public officials as compared to limits in place in 2010.
So, what do the retired judges propose?
A very simple thing called "a bright line rule".
They propose to set a rule NOT requiring mandatory disqualification of judges from cases of financial contributors to their judicial campaign (whether the contributor was a party or an attorney of record in a certain case), if the contribution was up to the following amounts:
This request raises interesting questions, especially that judges ask to establish this "bright line rule" in order "to insure the public's confidence in the ultimate fairness and integrity of the entire Wisconsin judicial system":
So, according to the retired judges' proposal, the following amounts of BRIBES to Wisconsin judges not only do not undermine, but actually ensure "the public's confidence in the ultimate fairness and integrity of the entire Wisconsin judicial system":
- a bribe of up to $10,000 - if given to a candidate for the highest state court;
- a bribe of up to $2,500 - if given to a candidate to the intermediate appellate court;
- a bribe of up to $1,000 - if given to the judge of a trial-level court of general jurisdiction; and
- a bribe of up to $500 - if given to a judge of a municipal court