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All questions of judicial qualification may not involve constitutional validity. Thus matters of kinship, personal bias, state policy, remoteness of interest, would seem generally to be matters merely of legislative discretion. But it certainly violates the Fourteenth Amendment and deprives a defendant in a criminal case of due process of law, to subject his liberty or property to the judgment of a court the judge of which has a direct, personal, substantial, pecuniary interest in reaching a conclusion against him in his case.
Plaintiff Tumey was arrested and brought before Mayor Pugh, of the Village of North College Hill, charged with unlawfully possessing intoxicating liquor. He moved for his dismissal because of the disqualification of the Mayor to try him, under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Mayor denied the motion, proceeded to the trial, and convicted plaintiff. The conviction was reversed by the Court of Common Pleas of Hamilton County. On appeal by the State, the Court of Appeals of the first appellate district of Ohio affirmed the judgment of the Mayor. The State Supreme Court denied plaintiff’s petition. In this current petition for certiorari, plaintiff contended that he was denied due process of law when he was convicted of violating the state's Prohibition Act because the mayor who convicted him had a direct, pecuniary interest in his conviction. Specifically, the mayor could only be paid for his services as a judge if he convicted those who were brought before him, and the mayor had an interest in generating revenue for his village by convicting and fining those before him.
Under the circumstances, were the plaintiff’s Fourteenth Amendment rights violated?
The Court held that the plaintiff’s Fourteenth Amendment rights and due process rights were violated when his liberty or property was subjected to the judgment of a court the judge of which had a direct, personal, substantial, and pecuniary interest in reaching a conclusion against him in his case. According to the court, plaintiff had a due process right to be tried by an impartial judge.