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When Judges Should be Recused

December 1, 2017 by pgd1

As a family law attorney / divorce attorney in Clearwater Florida, it has sometimes happened that a judge will say something during the course of a hearing that will cause me to ask the question:  should the judge be recused?  This has not happened frequently.

For the most part, I resist the temptation to recuse a judge.  First of all, the comments made by a judge must be viewed in context, and it may be that the judge did not say something that reveals a prejudice or pre-judgment of the case to the detriment of a client.  However, given the emotional nature of many divorce and family law proceedings, sometimes clients, lawyers and judges make remarks that, in hindsight, were better left unsaid.

Take the case of Governor Rick Scott.  His term is coming to an end and he would like to appoint three justices to the Florida Supreme Court before his term expires.

There is a pending lawsuit on this topic.  The issue in the case is whether Scott or his successor will have the power to make the appointments — an issue that could shape the balance of the court for years, if not decades.  Scott’s lawyers have maintained that Scott has the authority to appoint replacements for the justices before he leaves office on January 8, 2019.  But the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause, which filed the lawsuit in June, contend that Scott’s successor holds the privilege of naming the new justices.

To add some drama to this situation, in a motion filed recently, Scott’s lawyers requested the disqualification of Justice Barbara Pariente because of comments she made that were caught on a “hot mike” after oral arguments in the appointments case this month.

Scott’s lawyers also pointed to remarks Pariente made in 2012, urging voters to keep her — along with Justices Quince and Lewis in office because a vote against retention “will give Gov. (Rick) Scott the right to make his appointments, which will result in partisan political appointments.”

Pariente’s public comments “are reasonably perceived as expressing a bias against Governor Scott on the question of whether he should be prohibited from appointing her successor,” the governor’s lawyers argued.

As lawyers and judges, it is of utmost importance to choose our words carefully and mindfully.  The Florida Supreme Court now will determine whether the comments made by Justice Pariente should lead to her recusal.1

family law

by Patrick Gaffney

Family Law Attorney in Clearwater Florida

The Law Office of Peacock, Gaffney & Damianakis, P.A. is a full service law firm. The attorneys provide a variety of services with a focus on Marital and Family Law, Real Estate, Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts and Civil Litigation. Please contact us if can be of help.


1 Facts for this blog were taken from:  Kam, Dara.  “Gov. Scott wants Supreme Court Justice Pariente off appointments case.”  Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017.  Retrieved from:  http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/state–regional-govt–politics/gov-scott-wants-supreme-court-justice-pariente-off-appointments-case/srDEN4KqxP6xBvDsez3WBP/

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