BIRMINGHAM — Bryan Taylor, a conservative pro-life Republican running for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, today called on his opponent, Associate Justice Sarah Stewart, to recuse herself from any further participation in the high-profile case over the loss of frozen embryos at an Alabama in vitro fertilization clinic.

“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,” Taylor announced. “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 case was initially dismissed by the trial court, but the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision earlier this month, sending the case back down for trial.

 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 exposure to large punitive damages awards.

Just since December, Stewart has reported receiving over $1.2 million from PACs largely funded by trial lawyers. Of that amount, $979,000 came from just three PACs: Pride PAC II, T-Town PAC II, and Progress for Justice PAC, the official PAC of the Trial Lawyers Association.  During the same timeframe, the plaintiffs’ firm in the IVF case contributed over $300,000 to those three PACs, amounting to nearly a third of the contributions to Stewart’s campaign.

The firm gave $75,000 to Progress for Justice PAC four days before the IVF ruling was released—20 percent of the total contributions that PAC has received since the beginning of the year. Progress for Justice PAC then gave Stewart $304,000 four days after the ruling. The PAC’s total contributions to all other candidates this election cycle is just $15,000 combined.

The Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics state that a judge should recuse whenever his or her “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

In his statement today, Taylor 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,” Taylor explained.

“I’ve been saying this on the campaign trail for months while my opponent Sarah Stewart has been voting to expand liability and unconstitutionally increase punitive damages awards, all while taking $1.2 million from liberal trial lawyers. These are the same donors who donated to Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. As chief justice, I will ensure fairness under the law and promote a level playing field for all.  And I’ll stand up to the weaponization of our courts.” Taylor added.

During the course of the campaign, Stewart has previously come under fire for affirming a record-high punitive damages award against a hospital and being the only justice on the Court to vote to uphold a jury award against a Dollar General store for an injury caused to a customer when a car crashed through the front of the store.

Taylor is a retired Army Judge Advocate and Iraq War veteran. He has also served as a legal advisor to the Alabama Republican Party and two Republican governors. Today he is in private practice with a concentration in Constitutional law and appeals, election law, and business litigation. He and his three children live in Shelby County and attend Double Oak Community Church.



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