Three recent state, federal and Supreme Court controversies show how judges thwart the public's right to due process when judges with apparent conflicts refuse to recuse themselves.
Tracy Gilbert by State of Texas
Texas judge Tracy A. Gilbert, for example, decided a custody case in March by ending a father's legal relationship with his child. The judge continued to preside even after the father showed in mid-trial that the mother's attorney also represented the judge in a separate paternity case.
The law of recusal is clear-cut: It's not enough for judges to act in an unbiased manner when suspected of a potential conflict of interest. A judge must avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
One test is whether any independent and reasonable observer might think that an appearance of bias exists. If so a judge must withdraw from supervising a case. In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Liljeberg v. Health Svcs. Acq. Corp. that a judge must also inform litigants of potential conflicts, not simply wait for the parties to become super-sleuth detectives.In reality, however, litigants have scant power to enforce the rule, especially if a judge is determined to retain control.
For one thing, litigants may not know of the judge's conflicts until so late in the process that the Liljeberg holding is, in effect, ignored. Second, litigants and their attorneys may fear a judge's power too much to push the recusal issue. Third, a judge may become so arrogant or deeply compromised that he or she disdains legal requirements. Finally, other judges and opinion leaders show scant interest in scrutinizing judges more rigorously, especially if any scandal seems likely to fade away because watchdogs lack resources.
These problems are well-known in the justice system, particularly after a coal company CEO made $3 million in campaign donations to re-elect a West Virginia state Supreme Court of Appeals justice. That justice then wanted to rule on his donor's appeal of a $50 million jury verdict against his company, A.T. Massey. This led the U.S. Supreme Court to describe the right of parties to a fair judge in the 2009 case, Caperton v. Massey. More specifically, the court ruled that the West Virginia justice should have disqualified himself from hearing the appeal.
But even Massey illustrates a litigant's difficulty in removing a judge. The court decided the case by a 5-4 margin, and not every litigant has $50 million of incentives to keep fighting such battles.
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This blogger's two comments posted to the above article on Opednews.com:
I tried to have a Connecticut judge removed for bad behavior and bias in civil cases. That judge didn't recuse himself and sentenced me to a year in prison for resisting being mugged on my own property.
A Police State needs rigged courts. Organized Crime needs rigged courts. We the people are left holding the bag. If we say anything there is swift retaliation and prison. 2 of my friends who were to expose Connecticut judicial corruption on public access television, just both recently passed away of natural causes.
It is time to clean house.
Private Investigators who are not puppets to the state, and non-lawyer grand jury members with limited terms who are pooled from the general public to hear evidence to bring indictments against criminals from Obama on down should be heard by a legitimate venue to get justice.
Former Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called himself the "People's Lawyer" as Attorney General. He seemed to cover up, or not investigate, every allegation of public corruption while he allegedly awarded former law partners millions of dollars in no bid contracts. Blumenthal is organized crime friendly and refused to prosecute alleged Bilderberger Chris Dodd who on the Banking Committee of the US Senate took bribes from banksters so they could loot trillions from us. Blumenthal now sits in Dodd's seat. Grand Juries would fix this.
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