Public confidence in a fair and impartial judiciary is essential to the District of Columbia's criminal justice system. In order to preserve the integrity of the judiciary, and to ensure that justice is carried out in each individual case, judges must adhere to high standards of conduct. In furtherance of those standards, the District of Columbia Code of Judicial Conduct for the District of Columbia Courts, which is binding on judges of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and the District of Columbia Superior Court, requires a judge to recuse from any case in which there is an appearance of bias or prejudice sufficient to permit the average citizen reasonably to question the judge's impartiality. Thus, even if there is no bias in fact, an appearance of bias or prejudice requires recusal if it is sufficient to raise a question in the mind of the average citizen about the judge's impartiality.
At a public meeting regarding the possible federalization of the local police department, defendant launched into a lengthy discourse concerning his personal distaste for the police force. When defendant refused to yield the microphone, a scuffle ensued during which defendant punched the moderator and tackled a uniformed police officer, leading to his arrest and convictions. Defendant asserted on appeal that the judge's family relationship with two police officers created an appearance of impartiality that entitled defendant to a reversal of his conviction. The appellate court affirmed the judgment of conviction.
Was the motion to recuse the trial judge procedurally deficient?
The appellate court held that the motion to recuse the trial judge was procedurally deficient because defendant made an oral motion for recusal but never filed an affidavit or a certificate of good faith as required by D.C. Super. Ct. R. Civ. P. 63-I. Therefore, the trial judge did not err in denying the motion. Putting aside the procedural deficiencies of the motion, recusal was still not required because the average citizen would not have reasonably questioned the judge's impartiality under all the facts. Recusal also was not required on any other basis under the District of Columbia Code of Judicial Conduct.