Judicial Disqualification in Mississippi
The legal standards pertaining to judicial disqualification in Mississippi derive primarily from four sources – the state constitution, Miss. Code Ann. §9-1-11, Rule 1.15 of the Mississippi Uniform Rules of Circuit and County Court Practice, and the Mississippi Code of Judicial Conduct.
Pursuant to Article 6, §165 of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890, a judge is required to disqualify himself whenever the parties are related to him by affinity or consanguinity, or where the judge is interested in the cause, unless both the judge and the parties consent to permit him to sit. This constitutional provision has been construed together with §9-1-11, which basically tracks the constitutional provision in mandating disqualification for relationship, and also mandates disqualification where the judge has been “of counsel.”
In Mississippi the Code of Judicial Conduct enjoys the status of law, such that Mississippi courts enforce it rigorously, notwithstanding the lack of litigant’s specific demand; and, in recent years, Mississippi courts have often examined questions of judicial bias under §3(E) of the Code, which calls for disqualification whenever a judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned. Indeed, Mississippi’s Supreme Court recently held that the Code provides the standard for disqualification of Mississippi judges.
Mississippi courts have repeatedly emphasized that courts in that state presume that a judge is qualified and unbiased. However, with the adoption of the Code of Judicial Conduct, a judge is required to disqualify himself if a reasonable person, knowing all the circumstances, would harbor doubts about his impartiality. Further, while Mississippi’s Supreme Court had, at one time, held that Mississippi appellate courts should review a lower court judge’s decision on disqualification in accordance with a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of proof, is now well-settled that recusal is required whenever the evidence produces a reasonable doubt as to a judge’s ability to be impartial.
1. To review a recent (2013) case in which the Mississippi Supreme Court decided to fine, as well as to reprimand, a lower court judge for failing to failing to disclose a conflict and recuse himself click here
2. For a recent (2013) article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about an attempt to recuse a Hinds County Circuit Judge from a high profile case click here. Here is an order denying a 2011 motion to recuse the same judge in the same case click here
3. For a comprehensive overview of recusal and disqualification law in Mississippi which is updated annually see Flamm, R., Judicial Disqualification: Recusal and Disqualification of Judges, § 28.26. See also Wash. Mut. Fin. Group, LLC v. Blackmon, 925 So. 2d 780, 786 (Miss. 2004), citing Judicial Disqualification, § 4.4.4, at 124 (1996). To locate Mississippi libraries that have the current edition of Judicial Disqualification click here