In this first clip, Chief Justice Roberts questions Stuart Lev, representing Williams, about Castille campaigning on his record as DA when he ran for a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Lev explains that while bragging about sending Williams and 44 other people to death row alone is insufficient to demonstrate Castille’s potential bias in the case, it adds to the other factors present in this case that amount to bias and require recusal.
It should be noted that Castille’s tough-on-crime campaign is not unique in state judicial elections. A recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice found an increasing trend in campaign ads over the years touting candidates as “tough on crime” and attacking opponents as “soft on crime.” This hardline stance on the campaign trail appears to carry over once a judge is elected to the bench: a Reuters special report last year found that elected high court judges are more likely to affirm death sentences than appointed judges. While these findings did not come up at oral argument in this case, they are certainly cause for concern.