By Attorney Christie Mitchell
When you go to court, you can expect that the judge that is hearing your case is impartial and will treat both sides in a fair manner. While having an unbiased judge is almost exclusively the case, there could be a time where you believe your judge is biased.
The bias could be towards you or your situation. The bias could also be towards your attorney. You might also believe that the judge displays a lack of impartiality that might favor the other lawyer or litigant.
In a situation where a judge is biased or prejudice, the result could be a decision that is not fair or impartial to one party in the case.
Often, a judge will identify their own inability to be fair, neutral, and impartial and will recuse themselves from the case. As it relates to the judge, the word “recuse” means that the judge will excuse themselves from the trial or case because of potential bias or conflict of interest and another judge will be appointed in his or her place.
When might a judge recuse themselves from a case?
An example of when a judge might recuse themselves from a case might be if the judge formerly held a position as a lawyer at the same law firm as one of the attorneys involved in the case. In this example, the professional relationship with one attorney could imply that the judge is biased. Having identified the relationship and potential bias, the judge will recuse or excuse themselves from the case.
Can you ask a judge to recuse themselves if you think your judge is biased?
The second use of the word “recuse” involves a condition where one party in a case believes the judge is biased and a motion is made to recuse the judge. For instance, if it is learned that a member of the judge’s immediate family could benefit economically from the outcome of a case, the judge might have conflicted loyalties that would make it difficult to be impartial in the case. In this scenario, an attorney could make a motion to disqualify the judge, which asks the judge to recuse himself or herself.
The Orlando Law Group obtains a Writ of Prohibition after a denied motion to disqualify a judge
In a recent case, attorney Christie Mitchell from The Orlando Law Group won an appeal in a case where a motion to disqualify the judge was denied. Ms. Mitchell filed a Petition for Writ of Prohibition asking the appellate court to remove the judge after the judge declined to recuse herself. The Fifth District Court of Appeals, found the appeal well-taken, finding that “the facts alleged in Petitioner’s motion would place a reasonably prudent person in fear of not receiving a fair and impartial hearing.”
The Court of Appeals went on to grant the Petition for Writ of Prohibition stating “we grant the petition, quash the order denying Petitioner’s motion to disqualify and remand the case with directions that the underlying case reassigned to a different judge.”
Steps you should take if you think your judge is biased
The right to a trial by a fair and impartial judge is a right to all citizens. While the vast majority of the time a litigant can expect a fair and impartial judge on occasion, a litigant and his or her attorney may have a reasonable fear that the judge is or may be biased. You and your attorney should be in agreement that the judge assigned to your case may not be impartial.
No matter what, it’s important to work with an attorney who knows the strict requirements and timelines in seeking the recusal of a judge believed to be biased, and the steps necessary if the judge fails to recuse himself or herself. Your right to a fair trial is paramount and we will protect that right.