Judicial Disqualification in Massachusetts
There is no specific Massachusetts judicial disqualification statute. Nevertheless, there have been a host of Massachusetts case precedents dealing with various judicial disqualification issues. This fact may be attributable, at least in part, to the fact that Article 29 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights guarantees to every Massachusetts citizen the right to be tried by judges “as impartial as the lot of humanity will admit.” This right is enforced under Rule 3:09 of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts and Canon 3 of the Massachusetts Code of Judicial Conduct.
In Massachusetts, the question of disqualification is ordinarily left to the trial judge’s discretion. Thus, when a motion is predicated on a judge’s alleged bias, the judge is called on to consult his own conscience to determine whether he lacks the capacity to be fair.
1. To review the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rule on Motions to Recuse (Rule 1:22) click here
2. For a recent (Oct. 2013) article discussing the prosecution’s attempt to disqualify a Massachusetts judge in the high-profile murder case involving former NFL player Aaron Hernandez click here.
3. For a comprehensive overview of recusal and disqualification law in Massachusetts which is updated annually see Flamm, R., Judicial Disqualification: Recusal and Disqualification of Judges, § 28.23. See also Commonwealth v. Morgan RV Resorts, 84 Mass. App. Ct. 1, 10, 992 N.E.2d 369 (Mass. App. 2013), citing Flamm, Judicial Disqualification: Recusal and Disqualification of Judges § 8.9, at 225-229 (2d ed. 2007). To locate Massachusetts libraries that have the current edition of Judicial Disqualification click here.