Thursday, March 9, 2017

Judge Under Investigation Should Have Recused Himself From Trial

A trial judge that was under a bribery investigation by the same district attorney’s office that was prosecuting a defendant in his court should have recused himself from the trial

Rippo v. Baker, U.S., No. 16-6316, 3/6/17.

The United States Supreme Court held that due process under the Fourteenth Amendment requires that a judge recuse himself while under criminal investigation by the same prosecuting office as a defendant in his court. Before trial, the defendant moved to have the judge recuse himself because of the possibility the judge would not be impartial in adjudicating the criminal proceedings. The motion was denied and the defendant sentenced to death. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, finding that the Due Process Clause may sometimes demand recusal even when a judge “has no actual bias.” In their opinion, the court found that “Recusal is required when….the probability of actual bias on the part of the judge or decisionmaker is too high to be constitutionally tolerable.”

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