Friday, June 20, 2003

On the recusal of judges

While the Eleventh Circuit ponders the strategic use of a judge's nephew to displace the judge, as Howard Bashman reports here, in Bristol, Circuit Court Judge Flannagan has recused himself, apparently on his own initiative, from a case involving the City because his new next-door neighbor is the mayor, as reported here.

The judges in Southwest Virginia, state and federal, are likely to recuse themselves before the litigants even ask, if they can see some way it might look unfair for them to decide a case, and that's a good thing, even though sometimes it's a bummer because I want the judge to stay on. I can't remember ever asking a judge to give up a case, except once in a criminal case where Judge Flannagan ruled that it was no grounds for recusal that he had sentenced my court-appointed client a time or two (or more) previously. In that particular case, I probably should have tried the argument attributed to Judge Birg Sergent, when he was practicing, who supposedly once said something like this: "Judge, you've sent the defendant to jail several times now, and that's not worked out too well, so isn't it time that you tried probation?"

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