Impartial Justice: The Real Supreme Court Cases that Define the Constitutional Right to a Neutral and Detached Decisionmaker

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9780739177211: Impartial Justice: The Real Supreme Court Cases that Define the Constitutional Right to a Neutral and Detached Decisionmaker

This book examines the right to a neutral and detached decisionmaker as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court. This right resides in the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment guarantees to procedural due process and in the Sixth Amendment’s promise of an impartial jury. Supreme Court cases on these topics are the vehicles to understand how these constitutional rights have come alive. First, the book surveys the right to an impartial jury in criminal cases by telling the stories of defendants whose convictions were overturned after they were the victims of prejudicial pretrial publicity, mob justice, and discriminatory jury selection. Next, the book articulates how our modern notion of judicial impartiality was forged by the Court striking down cases where judges were bribed, where they had other direct financial stakes in the outcome of the case, and where a judge decided the case of a major campaign supporter. Finally, the book traces the development of the right to a neutral decisionmaker in quasi-judicial, non-court settings, including cases involving parole revocation, medical license review, mental health commitments, prison discipline, and enemy combatants. Each chapter begins with the typically shocking facts of these cases being retold, and each chapter ends with a critical examination of the Supreme Court’s ultimate decisions in these cases.

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About the Author:

Eric T. Kasper is an associate professor of political science for the University of Wisconsin Colleges and serves as the municipal judge in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, where he lives with his wife Julie and their two children, Madison and Jackson. This is his third book, having previously written Don’t Stop Thinking About the Music: The Politics of Songs and Musicians in Presidential Campaigns (with Benjamin Schoening) and To Secure the Liberty of the People: James Madison’s Bill of Rights and the Supreme Court’s Interpretation.


Review:

The word "disinterested" has multiple meanings. Although "apathetic" or "unenthusiastic" may be the first definitions that come to mind, in a juridical context the notion of "disinterest" is positive, a guarantee that the decision maker in a dispute is unbiased and not slanting rulings or playing favorites. Without this virtuous form of disinterest, a truly just system of dispute resolution is not possible. Kasper, who also serves as a municipal judge, has written a multifaceted study of the various settings in which impartiality is a core value in Anglo-American law. After a brief introduction tracking the evolution of impartiality from the 1215 adoption of the Magna Carta, Kasper explores the concept of unbiased decision making by juries, judges, and quasi-judicial actors or bodies. The next 13 chapters are organized as examinations of forums for impartiality--some examples are "death-qualified" juries, judges with financial stakes in the outcomes of cases, and medical license reviews--each viewed through the prism of a specific US Supreme Court decision. Kasper's accounts of the cases avoid jargon and are thus highly readable as well as interesting and informative. Summing Up: Recommended. All readership levels. (CHOICE)

Without due process and impartial adjudication, none of our constitutional liberties could be secure. Yet the imperative importance of such rights is not considered as often as it should be. Eric Kasper’s engaging and important Impartial Justice provides an excellent remedy to this situation. After tracing the historical development of the concept of due process, Kasper—a noted scholar as well as a municipal judge—presents a host of noteworthy and telling case studies that illuminate the importance of due process and impartial justice, while also showing how these foundational principles can be disturbingly denied in practice. Well-written and instructive, Impartial Justice is a great place to learn about these core principles, and, equally important, what it takes to secure them in the real world. (Donald Alexander Downs, Alexander Meiklejohn Professor of Political Science, Law, and Journalism, University of Wisconsin, Madison)

This is an exceedingly timely book given high profile cases such as the Newtown and Aurora shootings, Guantanamo habeus corpus petitions, and Wall Street financial corruption. In the United States, all have a right to fair judicial proceedings no matter the rage and vitriol of the public or the press. Kasper's compelling examples and argument remind us why fair judicial proceedings are as crucial to our constitutional democracy today as they were at the American Founding.
(John Evans, University of Wisconsin Eau Claire)

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