Wednesday, March 25, 2009
During the course of a divorce proceeding, the wife sought an order of protection from alleged abuse on the part of the husband. A hearing was scheduled and husband's attorney sought a continuance due to a previously-scheduled court appearence. The trial judge judge denied the motion on the mistaken belief that the hearing must take place within a certain amount of time and that the time could not be extended . As a result, the husband appeared without counsel.
The judge looked familiar to the husband. In fact, the judge had previously represented the wife in unrelated matters several years ago and, perhaps, her mother. The husband sought disqualification of the judge but the motion was denied. The hearing went forward and the judge ruled in favor of the wife.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court held that the continuance request was erroneously denied and that the judge must be recused from the hearing on remand. The husband's concerns about the judge's impartiality were reasonable and requied recusal under the circumstances for the new hearing. (Mike Frisch)