Lauren Keane


In Williams v. Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court established a new recusal rule, narrowly tailored to situations in which a judge previously participated as a prosecutor in the same case. In keeping with the Court’s decisions in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal and In re Murchison, the Court correctly determined that such direct, prior involvement created an impermissible appearance of judicial bias, such that a judge must recuse himself or herself from the decision. Furthermore, the Court’s recusal requirement is necessary in light of the ever-changing political environment and the public’s growing distrust of the independence and neutrality of the judiciary. As a result of Williams, the Court may find itself turning inward to further examine its own recusal decisions, requiring greater attention to circumstances in which the Justices may have a personal connection to a case or controversy, such that it would create the appearance or existence of actual judicial bias.

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