Judge Impartiality

Topics: Law, Judge, Nevada Pages: 11 (4360 words) Published: February 11, 2013

The American legal system is structured in such a way as to permit the individual or entity being prosecuted to receive as fair and impartial a trial as possible. Legal counsel is provided in defense of the individual being prosecuted whether he or she are able to afford it or not, courtroom rules are structured to ensure that the proceedings are fairly administered, and, ideally, an impartial judge plays the role of a wise referee who both interprets the rules and ensures that they are followed.

While an impartial judge is ideal, it must be acknowledged that judges are imperfect human beings who are prone to be influenced by politics, lobbyists, and current events. That being said, the ideology of impartiality is not always a realistic concept. In a perfect world, judges who felt that they could not rule on a case without exhibiting personal bias or prejudice would recuse themselves from ruling. This, however, is not a perfect world, and sometimes, biased judges are the price that must be paid in a world with imperfect people.

In the American legal system where the defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty, it is absolutely imperative that the judge ensures the courtroom proceedings are carried out in as objective a manner as possible and according to the Constitution. a judge’s impartiality not only guarantees that there isn’t a miscarriage of justice, it also creates a balance between the two litigating forces: the prosecution and the defense. This helps to ensure that, ideally, a victory in the courtroom occurs when truth prevails, not necessarily when a lawyer achieves his desired outcome.

Using newspaper and academic journal articles, this paper will identify the specific regulations that govern the circumstances in which a judge should feel compelled to recuse himself from a given court case. It will also explore the proper methods that should be employed by attorneys who wish to compel a judge to disqualify him or herself by filing a motion to recuse. Finally, this document will review the controversial politics of electing judges in the state of Nevada and how that process adversely affects the impartiality and neutrality of the individuals who gain office. When should a judge recuse him or herself?

According to the Code of Conduct For United States Judges, “A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned…” (“Guide to Judiciary,” 2009). An example of impartiality could be something as simple as having a personal bias or prejudice against one of the parties being tried. Another example would be if the judge were somehow related to one of the parties involved in a given case. One of the inherent problems with determining judicial prejudice is that the rules governing what constitutes bias are fairly vague, and therefore it is sometimes a complicated endeavor to prove that bias exists. When it comes to determining unfairness in a courtroom, an obvious question must be addressed: who is responsible to judge the judges? Or, in other words, who is responsible to determine if a judge is too biased to rule without prejudice on a case? According to The Valparaiso Law Review, “In the majority of states, the decision of whether to grant or deny a motion to recuse is within the sound discretion of the challenged judge” (Abramson, 1994). So to answer the question, the judge is responsible for judging himself. This concept is fundamentally problematic and inherently flawed, because if a judge is truly biased but wishes to rule on a case anyway, who is to stop him? Understanding that there is not a lot of judicial oversight, the question is not simply whether or not a judge is prejudicial, but also whether or not he or she is ethical enough to admit it. A small town judge who refuses to recuse himself from a case in which he has a personal relationship with the defendant would not only be highly unethical, but the...
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