What Can You Do If You Believe The Judge In Your Lawsuit Is Biased Against You?
Donald Trump has recently taken to the airwaves to complain that he feels that the judge presiding over a civil case leveled at him is blatantly unfair and biased. That's not an uncommon thing to hear alleged, especially when the tide of rulings seems to be going against one side or the other. However, sometimes a case doesn't even get started before there's questions about the judge's ability to be fair and impartial. If this happens in your personal injury case, what can be done?
If it is voluntary, it's called a recusal.
Judges have a fundamental duty to be impartial. If a judge recognizes that he or she can't be impartial in a case, for whatever reason, he or she will often voluntarily determine that the case should continue under another judge. Some judges will do this without being asked, while others will wait for one of the attorneys to motion for the recusal.
If it is involuntary, it's called a dismissal.
Sometimes, judges are reluctant to step aside from a case. In part, it may be because they feel that their credibility is being called into question, but there are other reasons as well. Judges don't want litigants in civil cases to "shop" for a judge, hoping that they'll get one who is considered friendlier to their side. A recusal also slows down the whole litigation process, since a new judge has to step in and start over in order to ensure fairness.
There are a number of valid reasons to ask for recusal or dismissal.
There are any number of reasons that someone may accuse a judge of being biased. For example, Trump believes that the judge in his case is biased because of a Mexican heritage. While that's probably not a common reason to suggest judicial bias, there are others that are:
- The judge has a personal animosity toward one of the parties involved or one of the attorneys. Maybe they were law school rivals or the judge was once denied a partnership in the plaintiff's firm.
- The judge is related to anyone involved in the case. This could be the plaintiff, the defendant, or any of the attorneys involved, by birth or by marriage.
- The judge has personal knowledge of your case. Perhaps the judge's husband happened to be passing by and saw the scene of the car accident you were in shortly after it happened. He may have formed an opinion of the events and relayed that opinion to the judge before she got your case.
- The judge has made overtly biased comments. Maybe he made a series of snide remarks about the credibility of an expert witness, calling her a "hired opinion" in front of the jury.
Merely having a series of ruling that run against you isn't enough to establish bias—your attorney has to be able to establish a clear reason for the allegation. If the judge won't recuse himself or herself when asked, your attorney can take the issue to a higher level court for a decision. Contact a personal injury lawyer for more information.