January 26, 2010
Recusal Not Required
Reversing a decision of the Court of Appeals, the Kentucky Supreme Court held that a judge who presided over a case involving a construction dispute did not err in declining to recuse herself. The losing party had learned while an appeal was pending that the judge's campaign treasurer was the daughter of the opposing side. The loser then sought to set aside the judgment or to be granted discovery into the relationship between the judge and the opposing party. The judge denied the motion, denying that she was aware of the relationship and thus could not have been influenced.
The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment as "there can be no question that the rule against appearence of impropriety has been violated."
The court here reversed, finding the relationship between the judge and the daughter/campaign treasurer to be "highly impersonal." The campaign treasuer was not "within the inner-circle of [the judge's] political advisors...[she] became campaign treasurer for the practical reason that [the judge] wanted a competent, professional accountant to serve as treasurer instead of a member of her political team. [The treasurer] was not a social acquaintance of [the judge]. The only prior relationship...was an accountant-client." The judge did not know of the family connection tio the case.Thus, there was no danger that an informed observor would conclude that the judge was biased. (Mike Frisch)
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