How to Change Judges
What is a Judge’s Role?
The judge’s role is important in all cases, but their importance does diminish or increase depending on the type of case.
- In a family court case most states do not allow juries and the entire decision regarding child support , child custody, and other matters rests solely in the discretion of the family law judge.
- In criminal trials you have the right to a jury and the judge’s role will be to determine what evidence is admissible, who can testify, along with other administrative matters, but the outcome of the case will be in the hands of the jury.
- In most states civil cases allow a judge to determine the outcome of the case (called a "bench trial") unless one of the parties requests a jury trial, in which case a jury decides.
What Happens if You Want to Change Judges?
Changing judges is a common request and each state handles it differently. Many states allow you to easy change a judge if you request the change early, but make it more difficult once proceedings begin. If an early request is not made some clear indication that a fair trial will not occur needs to exist.
Some examples of clear reasons why a judge could not give a fair trial are as follows.
- The judge has a financial interest in the outcome of the case
- The judge is related to one of the parties i.e. brother, cousin, grandfather
- The judge represented one of the parties as a lawyer in a previous matter
Often if situations like these occur the judge will remove themselves voluntarily, which is called recusal.
Can I Change the Judge if I Don’t Like How They Are Handling My Case?
Simply not agreeing with what the judge decides on an issue will almost never be a sufficient reason to change judges. Since every ruling will hurt one side or the other, things could never get accomplished if people continually asked for new judges every time a party didn’t like a decision. If you truly think the judge made a wrong decision you can appeal it, but it is very rare to change judges simply because you don’t like how they are handling your case.
Do I Need an Attorney to Change Judges?
The judge that proceeds over your trial will have a significant impact on your case. You may want to research the judge you have been assigned long before your case begins and possibly go into their courtroom and watch how they handle issues. It is important to realize that all individuals have a constitutional right to watch a trial unless extreme circumstances exist. Considering how important the Judge is to your case you may want to observe them in action. If during your research you discover something you dislike about the judge prior to your court date a lawyer can help you change judges. However, the longer you wait to request a change the less likely it is for your request to be granted.
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Last Modified: 09-29-2012 10:22 AM PDT
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