Friday, April 13, 2012

Zimmerman Judge Discloses Potential Conflict

held a quick status conference by telephone with the lawyers today to disclose her husband's law partner will be commenting on the case for CNN. The video of the hearing is here.

The judge hearing the George Zimmerman case today announced that her husband works for the law firm of Mark NeJame, who's been hired to act as a CNN analyst for this case.

Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler said she had an ethical obligation to disclose that and allow Zimmerman's attorney or the special prosecutor to ask her to step down.

Mark O'Mara says the issue "concerns him" and he may ask for another judge next week. A bond hearing has been set for April 20, one week from today.

Here is Florida's Judicial Canons of Ethics:

Canon 3 (E)(1)

(1) A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to instances where:

[c] the judge knows that he or she individually or as a fiduciary, or the judge's spouse, parent, or child wherever residing, or any other member of the judge's family residing in the judge's household has an economic interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding or has any other more than de minimis interest that could be substantially affected by the proceeding;

(d) the judge or the judge's spouse, or a person within the third degree of relationship to either of them, or the spouse of such a person:

(iii) is known by the judge to have a more than de minimus interest that could be substantially affected by the proceeding;

Under this rule, a judge is disqualified whenever the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned, regardless of whether any of the specific rules in Section 3E(1) apply.

Canon 5D(1)

In addition, a judge should discourage members of the judge's family from engaging in dealings that would reasonably appear to exploit the judge's judicial position. This rule is necessary to avoid creating an appearance of exploitation of office or favoritism and to minimize the potential for disqualification.

Canon 2

A judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. A judge must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny. A judge must therefore accept restrictions on the judge's conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and willingly.

....The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds, with knowledge of all the relevant circumstances that a reasonable inquiry would disclose, a perception that the judge's ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity, impartiality, and competence is impaired.

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