Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Recusal Not Required Where Judge Had Represented Defendant

The Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed a drug conviction, rejecting the contention that the trial judge improperly denied a recusal motion because she had previously represented the defendant as a public defender

Mr. Gilbert does not claim on appeal that Judge Wilking abused her discretion in concluding he failed to show Judge Johnson was biased or prejudiced against him. Instead, he claims Judge Johnson erred in not recusing herself from his case under Rule 2.11(A)(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct because she previously represented him in a similar matter
and under Rule 1.9(c) of the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys at Law (W.R.P.C.) because she was privy to confidential information as a result of their prior attorney-client relationship. While he acknowledges neither rule explicitly requires a judge to recuse herself if she previously represented the defendant, he claims it is the appearance of impropriety, along with Mr. Gilbert’s and the public’s interest in an unbiased neutral judiciary, which control.


Mr. Gilbert’s reliance on these rules is misplaced for two reasons. First, as stated above, there is no evidence Judge Johnson harbored a personal bias or prejudice against Mr. Gilbert, had personal knowledge of the facts in dispute in this proceeding, or used or revealed confidential information she obtained in her prior representation of Mr. Gilbert. Second, a motion for a change of judge is controlled by W.R.Cr.P. 21.1, not the Code of Judicial Ethics or the W.R.P.C.

...The Code of Judicial Conduct and the W.R.P.C. are intended to provide guidance for the ethical conduct of judges and attorneys and to serve as bases for discipline, not as grounds for a change of judge in a legal proceeding.

(Mike Frisch)


Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink


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