Recusal is the process of a judge stepping down from presiding over a particular case in which the judge may have a conflict of interest. Both federal and state law holds that judges must recuse themselves if there are grounds to do so. Depending on the circumstances, judges are subject to punishment for not recusing themselves.
The reason for recusal is that judges have a duty of fairness when imparting justice as they are presiding over cases. At the time the judge learns of the assignment to a case, the judge should review the facts of the case and decide whether there are any conflicts of interest regarding the case. Some examples of conflicts of interest are where a judge has:
If the judge determines that there is such a conflict, then the judge may decide to recuse him- or herself from the case. In some jurisdictions, another judge makes the decision as to whether the presiding judge should be prohibited from hearing the case. Moreover, any party to a case may make a motion to have the judge recuse him- or herself.
If the judge’s decision not to recuse himself or herself was accidental, then there is not likely to be any penalty. For example, if a judge is unaware that proper grounds exist for recusal, then the error will probably be considered harmless.
However, if a judge declines recusal even though aware that proper grounds exist, then there can be significant repercussions. First, the result of the case can be reviewed by an appellate court, and an entirely new trial can be ordered. In this case, the judge’s decision regarding a criminal conviction or award may be reversed or set aside.
In addition, a judge who refuses recusal may be reprimanded, suspended, or disciplined. Such disciplinary measures vary by jurisdiction, and may even include disbarment.
Judicial misconduct is a serious issues in a lawsuit. For further information on the consequences of a judge not recusing, you should consult your attorney.
Last Modified: 09-21-2017 03:00 AM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
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