Wednesday, March 03, 2004
I just got back from court, where the judge who had taken on what promises to be a complicated, lengthy and thankless trial from another judge found that he was obliged to recuse himself. In the end he was stuck-- he has a direct financial interest in the outcome, due to his former partnership arrangement with an attorney who is involved in the matter. What was interesting to me was that he was obviously pained by the fact that this creates all kinds of headaches for the lawyers, the parties and the administrative system that runs our local courts. He couldn't have wanted the trial, but when it was clear that the judge who'd had it before him couldn't do it, he stepped up to the plate. He really wanted to be able to help out, and was upset that he couldn't. It is always a delicate thing, the question of recusal. There are lots of times when one feels that a judge ought to hand a matter off to someone who is better able to maintain objectivity, but one is frequently hesitant to raise the issue, for fear of pissing off the person who is already in a position to hurt you. Ironically, the judges you usually most wish would recuse themselves are seldom the ones that do so, and are usually the ones most likely to take umbrage-- and take it out one the requesting partyseldom see any problem. Certainly Justice Scalia fits this mold: he'll recuse himself over a trip to Croatia, , but duck hunting is apparently another matter. I'm sure that in his mind there is a complicated rule about overseas travel, or travel to Eastern Europe, or an exception when Labrador Retrievers are involved.