Help! The Judge in My Case Doesn’t Seem Impartial!
When judges don’t rule in people’s favor, many victims (litigants) tend to think that the judge must be biased or prejudiced (by prejudiced, we mean prejudiced towards or against one side of a lawsuit or another). Crazy theories can arise about why the judge doesn’t like a party in an injury lawsuit. Parties to a lawsuit may think that the judge has a history of ruling against a particular side, or that the judge didn’t like something the victim said or did.
Safeguards on Neutrality
In reality, judges’ jobs are to rule in a neutral way, and without bias, and it is highly unlikely that any judge is going to risk his or her career and judgeship on any single case. Judges are publicly elected officials, held to answer to the public, thus providing another way of ensuring a judge’s neutrality.
Dispute these safeguards, there is a way that a judge can be taken off of a case, if there is the indication that the judge may be impartial or biased in a case. However, it is vital to remember that the test is not whether a judge actually is biased or prejudiced against one side or the other. The test is whether the judge says or does something that would give the appearance of being impartial.
Things in a Judge’s Background
The law says that even if the judge is completely neutral, parties have a right to a judge that avoids even the appearance of bias.
There are two situations when judges can give that appearance. Sometimes, there may be something in the judge’s history or background that may give rise to the appearance of being partial. For example, assume that a judge gives a speech at a teacher’s union gathering. Later, the victim, a teacher, has an injury case before that judge. The insurance company (the other side in the case) may feel that the judge’s speech makes him or her partial towards the teacher.
Sometimes, a judge may have a spouse that works for a company, or in a field, which could affect the judge’s appearance of neutrality.
In cases where judges have something in their background which gives a clear signal that the judge could appear impartial, most judges won’t wait for you to bring up the potential conflict—they will often remove themselves from the case on their own (called “recusing” themselves).
Things That a Judge May Say
Sometimes, it isn’t something in the judge’s background, but something the judge does or says in court. It may be a comment that indicates some form of bias, but it may also be an off-the-cuff comment, perhaps even something made in an attempt at humor, which gives concern to a party that the judge may be impartial. These are much tougher cases to get a judge removed.
The Tampa personal injury attorneys at Barbas, Nuñez, Sanders, Butler & Hovsepian can help you if you are injured by the carelessness, negligence, or actions of any other person or business. Call us today to discuss obtaining damages after any accident. Schedule a consultation today.