How Does Judicial Recusal Happen?

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Occasionally, a situation may arise in which a judge’s impartiality in a particular case may be questioned.  In these situations, the judge may step down from the case, which is known as recusal.  Recusal can come about in two different ways.

First, judges often will simply recuse themselves.  For example, if a judge has previously served as a lawyer for one of the parties, or has a financial stake in the outcome of the case, the argument for recusal is clear.  The judge will simply file a motion for recusal, and a new judge will be appointed to the case.

However, there are sometimes situations where one of the parties in the case feels that the judge is not impartial, but the judge does not file a motion for recusal.  In those instances, the party can request recusal.  While the decision on whether recusal is proper still lies with the judge, judges will generally agree to recuse themselves if asked.  However, if the judge decides against recusal, that decision can generally be appealed to the next court.

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Last Modified: 07-23-2009 11:50 AM PDT

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