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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 ?
The bench, on May 6, said, "He (Roy) suggested, we should recuse ourselves from hearing the case, and require it to be heard by another composition, not including either of us.
6) The suggestions differ in their approach to solving the problem, but they are uniform in their diagnosis of the problem: the lack of truly standardized and predictable rules for when judges are required to recuse themselves.
Previous proposals have correctly identified the root of the problem (a lack of clear rules) and provided practical solutions to the problem of judges improperly refusing to recuse themselves, but they have also ignored a significant problem with the current landscape of recusal law.
Massey Coal Co, Inc (1) addresses when judges must recuse themselves because a litigant has contributed to their election campaign.
There, a justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court refused to recuse himself from the appeal of a $50 million verdict entered against Massey Coal Company, even though the CEO of Massey had contributed $3 million to the justice's election effort, or more than two-thirds of the amount the justice raised to defeat the incumbent.
6) If any of these circumstances are present, the duty of a judge to recuse is not subject to waiver by the parties.
Second, the judge who owns stock in the tobacco company and the judge whose spouse is a partner in the tobacco company's law firm should recognize the need to recuse if the appeal is assigned to them, in the unlikely event that automatic screening in the Clerk's Office fails to trigger recusal.
If it were me and it has the appearance, I would be very severely tempted to go ahead and recuse myself," said Scott, who during the 1960s was a briefing attorney for the Court of Criminal Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court.
it was surprising and disturbing to many directors at the board meeting that director Dunn didn't recuse himself.
If they give me something in writing, I will recuse myself from now on,'' Dunn said Thursday.
com/1996-03-14/business/9603140016_1_aetna-life-sale-of-aetna-lines-reider) year later , when Aetna requested state approval to acquire a piece of another insurance company, Reider opted to recuse himself from the regulatory review.
pdf) Citing the Reider case, Republican lawmakers have asserted that Wade must recuse herself.