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Judicial bias can sometimes be subtle – and then there’s this

| Nov 27, 2018 | Criminal Defense

Many criminal suspects in Colorado and elsewhere adamantly believe that the police and prosecutors did not play fair while arresting and charging them with a criminal offense.

Logically, they turn their attention to the judge in their case, reasonably anticipating that authority figure’s fundamental fairness in overseeing their matter and ultimately ruling upon it.

That expectation is eminently sound and based on a cornerstone notion relevant to American criminal law. The U.S. Constitution itself makes reference to the key concept of impartiality in its seminal 6th Amendment addressing U.S. trial rights.

Bottom line: Your judge needs to be fair and free of bias while exercising ample personal power in a matter where personal freedom and liberty is often at stake.

We segue abruptly now in today’s post to a recent story spotlighting one state court judge’s conduct that raised the collective eyebrows of appellate panel justices, resulting in that individual’s public censure. The appellate court took the case and issued its unanimous ruling and remand of the matter to a different court even in the absence of any objection being stated at the trial-court level.

What prompted the appeals panel to act was patently clear from comments delivered by the trial judge, coupled with his manifestly harsh sentencing term imposed on a father in a child-support case.

Among other things, the court slammed the defendant for symbolizing “everything that’s wrong with the world today.” The judge also stated that the father would “fold like a cheap suit” if facing a challenge, and likened him to an arsonist taking the lives of multiple victims. A media report chronicling the story noted that the court followed its tirade by sentencing the defendant “to four times the period of incarceration recommended by the support magistrate.”

The appellate court found such collective utterances and general behavior to be flatly impermissible and necessitating a response “in the interest of justice.”

A suspected offender’s conduct is a centrally relevant consideration in a criminal case, of course. So, too, though, is the behavior of a public official who sits in judgment over that individual. The appellate panel’s intervention in the above case underscores the importance of that.


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