Legal Memorandum: Recusal of a Judge in VI

Issue: When should a judge honor a party’s request that he or she recuse himself?

Area of Law: Ethics & Professional Responsibility
Keywords: Recusal of a Judge; Disqualification
Jurisdiction: Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 149 Cal. App. 4; 360 F.3d 155; 939 P.2d 1039; 758 F.2d 97; 502 F.2d 914; 919 F.2d 1136; 406 S.E.2d 451; 229 Cal. App. 3d 46; 543 So. 2d 160; 112 P.3d 1063; 848 P.2d 1043
Cited Statutes: 4 V.I.C. § 284.
Date: 10/01/2007

The Virgin Islands Code makes clear that:

No judge or justice shall sit or act as such in any action or proceeding:


(1) To which he is a party or in which he is primarily interested;


(2) When he is related to either party, or to an officer of a corporation which is a party, by blood or marriage within the third degree;


(3) When in the action or proceeding or in any prior action or proceeding involving the same issues, he has been of counsel for any party to the action or proceeding; or


(4) When it is made to appear probable that, by reason of bias or prejudice of such judge, a fair and impartial trial cannot be had before him.

4 V.I.C. § 284.

When an issue as serious as an appearance of impropriety is raised, the court should address it on the merits, even if there are irregularities in the request for relief.  C & F Packing Co. v. Doskocil Cos., 126 F.R.D. 662, 689 n.21 (N.D. Ill. 1989) (citations omitted). Accord  Conklin v. Warrington Twp., 476 F. Supp. 2d 458, 459-60 (M.D. Pa. 2007) (the court would go forward with its independent research and analysis to determine the motion to recuse).

The appearance of impropriety may be a proper reason for disqualification under § 284.  […]

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