Cause Judging

55 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2014 Last revised: 3 Apr 2014

See all articles by Justin Hansford

Justin Hansford

Howard University School of Law; Georgetown University Law Center; Saint Louis University - School of Law; University of the Witwatersrand Law School; Harvard University Chalres Warren Center

Date Written: March 12, 2014


Building on the framework of “cause lawyering” scholarship, this Article explores the fact that, in the tradition of “cause lawyering”, law practice animated by dedication to a cause, “cause judging” exists as well. This insight has implications for judicial ethics norms. The hyper-partisan nature of modern American life has already cast doubt on the possibility that politically appointed judges can ever truly attain the “appearance of impartiality” demanded by judicial recusal standards. Instead, for the sake of fairness, accuracy, and public respect for the judiciary, judicial ethics norms should embrace the fact that judges have moral and political ideals that inform their rulings when they exercise judicial discretion, and some judges are cause judges. This acknowledgment would allow for an analysis of our judicial recusal regime that delineates between fair and unfair instances of cause judging. To illustrate, the case of United States v. Marcus Garvey and the Agent Orange case are juxtaposed. The comparison demonstrates that, in light of the reality of cause judging, an “appearance of fairness” standard would work better than the current regime. It would recognize that transparent cause judging adds value to the profession in the same way that cause lawyering does, while additionally improving public confidence in the judiciary and reinforcing a sense of fairness.

Keywords: Judges, Recusal, Cause Lawyering, Social Justice, Judicial Ethics

Suggested Citation

Hansford, Justin, Cause Judging (March 12, 2014). Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Vol. 27, No. 1, 2014, Saint Louis U. Legal Studies Research Paper 2014-7, Available at SSRN:

Justin Hansford (Contact Author)

Howard University School of Law ( email )

2900 Van Ness Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
United States
202-806-8083 (Phone)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC DC 20001
United States


Saint Louis University - School of Law ( email )

100 N. Tucker Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63101
United States


University of the Witwatersrand Law School ( email )

1 Jan Smuts
Johannesburg, GA
South Africa

Harvard University Chalres Warren Center ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States


Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics