(redirected from recusals)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.


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.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


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)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.


to remove from participation in a court case because of potential prejudice.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006
References in periodicals archive ?
(63) To the parties, it must have been perplexing to read the court's opinion in which it conditioned its recusal "upon there being substitute judges available to sit on this case." (64)
(69) is the most recent Supreme Court statement of constitutional (70) principles about recusal and a fair trial.
Acquisition Corp., (89) dealt with recusal because of a trial judge's connection to a nonparty which would benefit financially from the judge's decision.
Recusals have long been a part of the American judicial landscape.
that although most recusal issues do not have constitutional implications, due process necessitates recusal "when 'the probability of actual bias on the part of the judge or decisionmaker is too high to be constitutionally tolerable.'" (35) The Court explained that states can require recusals even where due process implications are not involved: "States may choose to 'adopt recusal standards more rigorous than due process requires.'" (36)
But, the rules governing recusals, rather than refusals to recuse, would have additional requirements.
dishonest judges to resist recusal and supplant litigants' legal
over-enforcing bias-based recusal, (4) and its focus on top-down
Scott's motion said that all allegations made in a recusal motion must be taken as true, and the motion must be granted if those allegations "would prompt a reasonably prudent person to fear that he could not get a fair and impartial trial." Hayslip v.
Various provisions of Canon 3 of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct require justices to be free from bias or prejudice and not make public comments about pending cases, Scott's motion said, and in this case requires Pariente's recusal because of a reasonable belief she would not conduct a fair and impartial hearing.
The nebulous recusal standards articulated in Caperton and found in state statutory and ethics codes reflect our nation's failure to adequately protect judicial independence.
In doing so, this Note addresses the current legal principles surrounding judicial recusal in state systems with elected judges, the impact of judicial campaigns and fundraising on those principles, and how those principles should be changed.