Impartial Judge and Jury
“The Defendant in a state criminal prosecution has the right under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to be tried before an impartial judge, and the prosecution is likewise entitled to an impartial judge.”
Required to Recuse:
Biased Judges are required to recuse themselves. According to the Code of Judicial Conduct, judges are required to disqualify themselves from any proceedings whenever the judge’s impartiality might be questioned. See Canon 3E of the Judge’s Code of Judicial Conduct: ” A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to [various instances].”
Reasons to Recuse:
According to the Code, there are several areas where a judge’s impartiality would reasonable be questions. They are specifically enumerated in the code, and include:
Judge is biased or prejudiced concerning a person to the proceeding. For example a friend of the Defense Attorney in a case.
Where Judge had prior involvement in the matter. For example where the judge is resolving an appeal and the judge worked as the trial judge. Or, where the judge worked as a lawyer on the case, prior to becoming a judge of that same case.
Economic Interest in resolution. For example, where the judge’s house was robbed by the Defendant. Or, the judge stands to gain money or lose money depending on a judgment in civil court.
Judge or family of judge is a party to the proceeding, is a lawyer in the proceeding, etc.
Motion to Disqualify:
Where a judge does not recuse themselves under the Code of Ethics, a motion to disqualify can be filed. In order for motion to disqualify to move forward there must be several technical standards satisfied. For example, the motion must be in writing, it must include a recitation of the facts, it must state the reasons relied upon by the moving party as grounds for disqualification, it must be sworn under oath, and it must include the dates of all previously granted motions.