On Thursday, Bryan Taylor, a candidate for Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice, called on his opponent, Justice Sarah Stewart, to recuse herself from future rulings on the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) case because her campaign received hundreds of thousands of dollars from PACs the plaintiff's lawyers have donated to heavily.

“After hearing oral arguments in the case last September, and while the case was under her consideration, Stewart’s campaign received hundreds of thousands of dollars from PACs heavily funded by the plaintiffs’ law firm in the case. Those campaign contributions create the appearance of a conflict of interest that requires recusal,” Taylor said.

“Because of the massive political contributions flowing through PACs into Sarah Stewart's campaign from the plaintiffs' law firm in this case, I’m calling on her to recuse herself from any further rulings in this high-profile lawsuit,” he continued.

Taylor added, “For the credibility and integrity of our justice system, judges must be fair and impartial, and they must avoid even the appearance of bias or favoritism, especially when campaign contributions of this magnitude are involved. Given the high-profile nature of this case and the emotions surrounding it, I’m calling on Justice Stewart to recuse herself to avoid even the appearance of bias or controversy going forward.”

The lawsuit seeks punitive damages under an 1872 statute authorizing claims for the wrongful death of a "minor child,” but that law had never been applied in the case of frozen embryos. The trial court initially dismissed the case, but the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision earlier this month, sending the case back down for trial.

Taylor's statement claims that in voting to reinstate the unprecedented lawsuit, Stewart sided with the plaintiffs’ law firm, which has given over $300,000 to PACs contributing to Stewart in the last three months while the case was pending before the Court, according to official campaign disclosure reports filed with the Alabama Secretary of State. As a result of the ruling, three Alabama clinics have suspended IVF services because of the possible exposure to more lawsuits like this one and the risk of manslaughter charges and large punitive damages verdicts.

The Alabama Legislature has been working this week to resolve the issue this case has caused and the unwanted stoppage of IVF in Alabama.

In his Thursday statement, Taylor also expressed concern about trial lawyers using the courts to expand liability, echoing a theme he’s been sounding for months on the campaign trail.

“Opening up businesses—whether they be retail stores, manufacturers, hospitals, or IVF clinics—to huge, unconstitutional punitive damages awards and previously unknown risks of liability is what drives them out of the state—or out of business altogether," he outlined.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email Bradley.cox@1819news.com.

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