Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Wechsler v. Superior Court (Cal. Ct. App. - March 4, 2014)

When can a judge officiate at your wedding and still preside over your client's case?  Pretty often.

So holds three judges.

The part of the opinion I with which I most agree is when Justice Haller says that "many attorneys select a judge to preside over a wedding because the judge has a close personal relationship with the individual or with the family."  Though I might delete the word "close".  Proving that there's a sufficient relationship to raise doubts about partiality, by contrast, is practically pretty difficult to establish.  What are you going to do when the attorney and judge submit declarations that admit that they know each other professionally and socially, and often talk and mingle in the same crowd, but aren't really "close"?  Hard to disprove.  Yet you can see why you'd be bummed if you were the litigant and had a judge who you knew hung out with the lawyer for the other side.

Not that I generally distrust judges.  At all.  But I'd still be worried.

The bad news for judges is that Justice Haller implicitly holds that even though the Penal Code allows judges to accept gratuities for performing weddings on weekends or holidays, it looks like that will usually result in disqualification.  Ditto for attending the reception.

So it'll have to be a quickie.  Maybe grab some cake on the way out the door.