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Judicial Bias/Disqualification — Determination of Impartiality

State v. Crystal Harrell a/k/a Parker, 199 Wis. 2d 654, 546 N.W.2d 115 (1996)


Although Parker encourages us to provide an objective standard of review for the initial subjective decision by a judge not to disqualify himself or herself, we decline to do so. Wisconsin Statute § 757.19(2)(g) is clearly drafted so as to place the determination of partiality solely upon the judge. See American TV, 151 Wis. 2d at 182-83. In fact, the legislature specifically included six other objectively determinable situations in subsection (2) which require withdrawal. These are the six situations on which it chose to focus. It is not this court’s role under subsection (2)(g) to expand this list by requiring a judge to recuse himself or herself in all situations where an objective basis of impropriety may exist. If the general prohbition in (2)(g) were read so broadly, the six specific situations enumerated in the statute would become superfluous.

In sum, Wis. Stat. § 757.19(2)(g) leaves the responsibility of withdrawal to the integrity of the individual judge or justice. To imply that the judges or justices of this state are not able to make such a determination honestly, openly and fairly is a great disservice to the quality men and women who serve this state in a judicial capacity.


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