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Judicial Bias — Generally, Structural Error

State v. Justin D. Gudgeon, 2006 WI App 143, PFR filed 7/14/06
For Gudgeon: Jefren E. Olsen, SPD, Madison Appellate

Issue/Holding:

¶10      A biased tribunal, like the lack of counsel, constitutes a “structural error.” See id. at 8; Franklin v. McCaughtry, 398 F.3d 955, 961 (7th Cir. 2005); State v. Carprue, 2004 WI 111, ¶59, 274 Wis. 2d 656, 683 N.W.2d 31. …

¶11      Our supreme court has also on occasion iterated the importance of an impartial tribunal. Guthrie v. WERC, 111 Wis. 2d 447, 331 N.W.2d 331 (1983) … stated, “It is, of course, undisputable that a minimal rudiment of due process is a fair and impartial decisionmaker.” Id. at 454 (emphasis added). “A ‘fair trial in a fair tribunal is a basic requirement of due process.’”Id. at 454 (citation omitted).

¶12      The court echoed these thoughts in Marris v. City of Cedarburg, 176 Wis. 2d 14, 498 N.W.2d 842 (1993). … It explained that, “Since biases may distort judgment, impartial decision-makers are needed to ensure both sound fact-finding and rational decision-making as well as to ensure public confidence in the decision-making process.” Id. at 25-26. …

 

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