The standard for recusal of a federal judge on grounds of bias requires proof that "his impartiality might reasonably be questioned." 28 U.S.C. 455(a).
The district judge in White v. Nat'l Football League, No. 08-2001, slip op. at 12 (8th Cir. Nov. 10, 2009), said in a press interview that the NFL "would have loved for me to be out of the way". He did so by way of explaining why the league wrote him a letter asking "that I remove myself from matters involving the NFL and the players' union." Id.
Add that lawyers for the union often met with His Honor ex parte for "an exchange of pleasantries in chambers when counsel arrived from out of town." Id. at 16. The NFL attorneys may have simply chosen not to attend.
The court of appeals held that U.S. District Judge David Doty did not abuse his discretion by refusing to recuse himself.
The thing that most upset Their Appellate Honors? That Judge Doty talked with the press and therefore seemed to "covet publicity." Id. at 14.
Blawgletter marvels at how far judges will go to beguile themselves with the fantasy that bias in their colleagues doesn't exist . . . or that its appearance doesn't really hurt anything. But when it does exist, or seems to, as in this case, it does hurt. More than they know.
We don't say Judge Doty crossed the line, but we do believe the Eighth Circuit told the facts in a way that made his indiscretions seem more gauche than troubling. Bad.
The case, by the way, involved whether Michael Vick — the former Atlanta Falcon quarterback — has to forfeit $16.22 million in "roster bonus" due to his guilty plea on federal dog-fighting charges. He doesn't.