Civic Shout

Conflicted Judge Must Recuse From Non-Compete Case

In April, the Federal Trade Commission issued a new regulation banning non-compete clauses, which prohibit employees and contractors from seeking employment with other employers in the industry. The move is expected to raise worker wages, lower health care costs and boost innovation in countless industries.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has filed a lawsuit attempting to block the rule, which will be overseen by Judge J. Campbell Barker.

But it turns out that Judge Barker holds substantial stock investments in companies like Amazon, which heavily rely on non-compete clauses(1). This significant financial interest presents a stark conflict of interest as he presides over a pivotal case challenging the Federal Trade Commission's ban on these very agreements.

This isn't just a matter of conflicting interests; it's a profound breach of the ethical obligations that underpin our judicial system. As the U.S. Code of Conduct stipulates, 

"A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to instances in which... the judge has a financial interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding, or any other interest that could be affected substantially by the outcome of the proceeding."

Sign the petition if you agree: Judge Barker must recuse himself from the  non-compete case. 

The courts treat potential conflicts of interest so seriously that the Supreme Court addressed the issue in the 2009 case, Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co. The Supreme Court found that even though there was no evidence that the judge in the case was biased because of a conflict of interest, they still took the position that he should recuse himself to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. 

At a time when trust in our legal institutions is critically low, such conflicts only deepen public cynicism and underscore the systemic issues eroding our democratic norms.

Judge Barker's situation is a clear example of why urgent action is necessary to preserve the fairness and integrity of our judiciary. The potential for bias distorts the legal landscape and undermines the principle of impartial justice, threatening the foundation of our democratic society.

We must ensure our courts are pillars of justice, not swayed by personal financial interests. 

Sign our petition demanding Judge Barker immediately recuse himself from the non-compete case.
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