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Perceptions of Justice: An International Perspective on Judges and Appearances

27 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2013 Last revised: 3 May 2015

Debra Lyn Bassett

Southwestern Law School

Rex Perschbacher

University of California, Davis - School of Law

Date Written: April 2013

Abstract

Prevailing international norms value an impartial process in judicial decision-making. Indeed, there is remarkably little difference between the judicial recusal norms found in U.S. law and those found, for example, in other common law countries. However, an issue shared by common law countries is the necessity, often downplayed in practice, that judges not only be impartial in fact, but also that they are perceived as impartial. This Article addresses two issues shared by common law nations concerning the appearance of impropriety: (1) the common practice of directing judicial recusal motions to the very judge whose impartiality is being challenged, and (2) the reluctance of some judges to recuse themselves when the lack of impartiality stems from appearances rather than actual bias. Taken together, these flaws with the current approach to recusal worldwide put the judge in the untenable position of judging his or her own cause, and also create the potential that judges will focus on their personal belief in their impartiality rather than on the appearance of impropriety, as required by the recusal standard.

Keywords: Federal courts, Judicial recusal, Judicial ethics

Suggested Citation

Bassett, Debra Lyn and Perschbacher, Rex, Perceptions of Justice: An International Perspective on Judges and Appearances (April 2013). Fordham International Law Journal, Vol. 36, No. 1, 2013; Southwestern Law School WP No. 1334; UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 338. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2229296

Debra Lyn Bassett (Contact Author)

Southwestern Law School ( email )

3050 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
United States

Rex Perschbacher

University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )

Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall
Davis, CA CA 95616-5201
United States

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