State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 96-12
Is recusal necessary when the judicial officer finds a leaflet concerning a case to which the judge has been assigned?
A leaflet concerning the death of a child by a drunk driver was placed under the windshield wiper of all the cars parked in the parking lot at the courthouse. All of the judicial officers park in that parking lot.
The judicial officer read the leaflet.
The judicial officer asked the clerk if there were a case involving the situation outlined in the leaflet. A check revealed the case was assigned to one of the judicial officers who had been leafleted.
CJC Canon 3(D) provides that judges should disqualify themselves in a proceeding in which their impartiality might reasonably be questioned including situations where a judge has personal bias concerning a party or personal knowledge of disputed facts. The mere fact that the judge read the leaflet concerning the case does not meet the criteria regarding disqualification. To avoid the appearance of impropriety the judicial officer should provide all parties with a copy of the leaflet.
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