When Judges Don’t Recuse Themselves–Part I



We have often dreamed that if we ever  hit the lottery big or broke the bank at Monte Carlo we would buy the newspaper and cremate it.  Not a copy of the latest edition, the entire newspaper company, building and contents, and destroy all its archives.  Upon reflection, we think it would be better if we founded a journalism school…..as a conversation piece, if nothing else.


When Peter Edward Rose was banned from baseball, so much scorn was heaped upon him by Major League Baseball, Inc., by the journalism community, and perhaps most of all by the baseball writers in the newspaper business.  It was a dark day for sport in America.   Pete had been found to have wagered on baseball games while employed as a manager for the Cincinnati Reds, after a stellar and record-setting career as a player for the Reds, Phillies and Expos.  The fact that Pete only bet on his own team to win was not a mitigating factor.  The sportswriters, who comprise the Hall of Fame voting body, refused entry to one of the game’s greats.

Pete was never accused of fixing games, or of using anything other than his managerial skills to win games, or anything else.  Gambling on baseball is not allowed by anyone in Major League Baseball, because it looks bad.

When Elena Kagan refused to recuse herself from the deliberations over the Supreme Court case about what we commonly call Obamacare, she was gently chastised by the deans of the legal profession around the country because prior to her ascendancy to the Court, she had argued passionately in an official capacity for the passage of a universal health care bill.  (As we recall, it was for specifically that bill which eventually made it’s way into law).  In ordinary times, judges, and prosecutors, are routinely expected to recuse themselves from acting or deciding on cases for which they have an interest or an association because…..it looks bad.  Justice Kagan was not the only one in NFIB v. Sebelius  to give the rule of law a bad name, but that’s a different kind of judgement from what we’re talking about here.

Currently in the news is the increasingly contentious debate over the status of one Huma Abedin, longtime aide to Hillary Clinton and, since Clinton became Secretary of State, an official employee of the US State Department as a Deputy to Secretary Clinton.  Ms. Abedin is not accused of any impropriety whatsoever, but the very deep and longstanding ties she has had to Islamist organizations worldwide, personally and through her family…….look bad.

These are just a few examples.  There are others, but the theme for today is professional integrity, being an honest broker, public perception and, last but not least, the perennial bugaboo of unintended consequences.

It shouldn’t have to be pointed out that a crooked judge is more likely than not to dispense uneven-handed justice.  But even if a judge is not crooked, if he stubbornly refuses to adhere to ethical standards which demand he step aside, or if he goes so far as to introduce into his work product elements in the public discourse that would appear to indicate bias, the taint goes well beyond him and blemishes the legal profession and the legal system.  One doesn’t have to have a very big imagination to see what can happen when people see what appears to be the legal system being abused, with no consequence.  Do we even have to mention  the odious nature of having a person with ties to various and sundry suspect international political groups maintaining a position in the US Department of State?

The integrity of sport is jealously guarded by sportsmen.  It is also, rightly or wrongly, very often a subject of intense Congressional scrutiny.  Those episodes are familiar to all.  But in the end, sport is sport.  Sport is not ‘The Rule of Law’.  Sport is not ‘National Security’.  But it far too often seems that judges and government officials escape the kind of scrutiny and moral indignation that the sportsmen encounter, doesn’t it?  It is perhaps time at this juncture in our history to call for a whole lot more introspection and reflection by the purveyors of justice and the purveyors of political and governmental affairs in this country about what happens to civilization when they don’t police themselves, especially in the absence of outside inquiry.

End Part I

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Hay Stack
August 15, 2012 10:32 pm

stellar work Bob, stellar; this is how you do it brother-nice job. And…please hurry up and gimme sum pt. II 😉

August 16, 2012 6:53 am

What Stack said, Bob. The left insists that all aspects of human life must be subject to the political process. (Mary McGrory, 1976) You’re describing what happens when it does.

August 16, 2012 9:09 am

“It shouldn’t have to be pointed out that a crooked judge is more likely than not to dispense uneven-handed justice.” We’re seeing rulings all around showing this – rulings not based on law, but on the judge’s deeply held political persuasions. Look at the 9th Circuit (Circus) Court of Appeals, and all the state and federal courts who rule against common sense (voter ID efforts, state constitutional issues (as in California, where they were able to “stay” the peoples’ will about heterosexual marriage), or where they’ve let the legislative bodies overrule the peoples’ will. Holder’s DOJ is an abomination to… Read more »

August 16, 2012 5:58 pm

Can someone answer please if they can be *forced* to recuse themselves? Either the other justices, Congress etc? TY