(redirected from recuses)
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 ?
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...
(4) To date, suggestions for how to improve or reform the recusal guidelines have included everything from providing counsel with peremptory challenges of judges (5) to requiring written opinions when a judge denies a motion to recuse. (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.
(b) If a Supreme Court judge recuses himself or herself in a particular case or a matter before the Court because of an actual or potential conflict of interest, and where such recusal results in an inability of the Court to render a decision in the case in accordance with subparagraph (a) of this provision, then an Interim Supreme Court judge shall be selected in accordance with procedures as determined by Supreme Court Rule to hear that particular case or matter until it is resolved or otherwise disposed of by the Court.
Massey Coal Co, Inc (1) addresses when judges must recuse themselves because a litigant has contributed to their election campaign.
Patrick later said he would recuse himself from any matters relating to Mr.
Legal experts say Justice Bob Pemberton's connections to Perry could put him in the tough position of having to decide whether to recuse himself.
"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.
Lowell Thompson's request that Judge Charlie Baird recuse himself from the Cameron Todd Willingham court of inquiry hearing wasn't decided today.
Before oral argument occurs, the judges will review those briefs in detail, and that detailed review may reveal a need to recuse that was not apparent from earlier information.
A ( year later , when Aetna requested state approval to acquire a piece of another insurance company, Reider opted to recuse himself from the regulatory review.