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To disqualify or remove oneself as a judge over a particular proceeding because of one's conflict of interest. Recusal, or the judge's act of disqualifying himself or herself from presiding over a proceeding, is based on the Maxim that judges are charged with a duty of impartiality in administering justice.

When a judge is assigned to a case, she reviews the general facts of the case and determines whether she has any conflict of interest concerning the case. If a conflict of interest exists, the judge may recuse herself on her own initiative. In addition, any party in a case may make a motion to require the judge to recuse herself from hearing the case. The initial presiding judge usually determines whether or not the apparent conflict requires her recusal, and the judge's decision is given considerable deference. Some jurisdictions, however, require another judge to decide whether or not the presiding judge should be disqualified. If a judge fails to recuse himself when a direct conflict of interest exists, the judge may later be reprimanded, suspended, or disciplined by the body that oversees Judicial Administration. In addition, in some cases where a judge presides over a matter in which he has a direct conflict of interest, any criminal conviction or civil damage award in the case may be reversed or set aside.

Generally, a judge must recuse himself if he has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party to the lawsuit or has personal knowledge of the facts that are disputed in the proceeding. The Code of Judicial Conduct, a judicial ethics code drafted by the American Bar Association in 1972 and adopted by most states and the federal government, outlines situations in which a judge should disqualify himself from presiding over a matter. Canon 3C of the Judicial Code outlines these situations, including the judge's personal bias or prejudice toward a matter or its participants, personal knowledge of the facts that are disputed in a case, a professional or familial relationship with a party or an attorney, or a financial interest in the outcome of the matter. Most interpretations of the code mandate a judge's disqualification or recusal if any of these factors are present.

In some cases the parties to a proceeding may waive the judge's disqualification and allow the judge to preside over the case. The judge's disqualification is waived when both parties agree to the waiver or when one or more of the parties continues to participate in the proceedings.

The term recusation was at one time considered an exception to jurisdiction, the effect of which was to disqualify the particular judge by reason of the judge's interest or prejudice in the proceeding.

Further readings

Abramson, Leslie W. 1992. Studies of the Justice System: Judicial Disqualification Under Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. 2d ed. Chicago, Ill.: American Judicature Society.

Comisky, Marvin, and Philip C. Patterson. 1987. The Judiciary—Selection, Compensation, Ethics and Discipline. New York: Quorum Books.


Canons of Judicial Ethics; Judicial Conduct.


v. to refuse to be a judge (or for a judge to be requested by one of the parties to step aside) in a lawsuit or appeal because of a conflict of interest or other good reason (acquaintanceship with one of the parties, for example). It also applies to a judge or prosecutor being removed or voluntarily removing himself/herself from a criminal case in which he/she has a conflict of interest, such as friendship or known enmity to the defendant. (See: recusal)


to remove from participation in a court case because of potential prejudice.
References in periodicals archive ?
10) By finding as it did, the en banc court accomplished two problematic ends: (1) it, as noted, effectively took away the appellants' statutory right to appeal; (11) and (2) it allowed the very judge who recused herself to be the judge who ultimately caused the appellants to lose their right to appeal.
This is the second time a judge has recused himself from this case.
Gensler last year recused himself from the case saying that he did not want his prior business relationship with MF Global Chairman Jon Corzine to be a "distraction.
Dr Abdul Basit resuming his arguments said that when a judge recused himself from a case, he could not join a review.
Even Ashcroft recused himself from the Karl Rove case.
I know from this experience that Third Circuit judges are expected to furnish the Clerk's Office with a list of parties, attorneys, and law firms on whose cases they will be recused from participating.
In an unexpected move, Justice Antonin Scalia has recused himself from the case and will take no part in the deliberations.
Asa Hutchinson said "I have recused myself from any decision-making on any of my brother's clients.
Carey, president and chief executive officer of Battery Park City, who also serves as a Power Authority trustee, recused himself from decisions concerning the proposed contract because of his dual roles regarding the BPCA.
Kaplan was picked after Chair Cristina Martinez recused herself because she is a friend of Makar and because she encouraged the asking of hard questions in the interview Vice Chair Larry Sellers recused himself because he practices in the same firm as Makar.
Microsoft can expect a more sympathetic hearing before a seven judge panel of the USCA (two judges having recused themselves) since there is a decided conservative cast to the panel and since this same court has ruled in Microsoft's favor on issues that are relevant to this case.