Court takes case on recusal law (Jan. 7, 2011)
The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether states can prohibit elected officials from voting when they may have a conflict of interest.
Nevada law requires elected officials to disqualify themselves when they are asked to vote on matters that touch on “commitments in a private capacity.” In 2006, a member of the Sparks City, Nev., Council, Michael A. Carrigan, disclosed that his campaign manager was a consultant to a business seeking to develop a casino, before voting its way in a land-use matter. The Nevada Commission on Ethics later ruled that the vote was improper and censured Carrigan.
The Nevada Supreme Court reversed that decision, saying it violated the First Amendment and citing the Supreme Court’s decision last year in Citizens United. “Voting by an elected public officer on public issues is protected speech under the First Amendment,” Justice Michael Douglas wrote for the majority.
On Jan. 7, 2011, the Supreme Court agreed to review the case.
Does the First Amendment subject state restrictions on voting by elected officials to strict scrutiny, the balancing test of Pickering v. Board of Education, or rational-basis review?