Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540 (1994)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the eleventh circuit

No. 92-6921. Argued November 3, 1993—Decided March 7, 1994

Before and during petitioners' 1991 trial on federal criminal charges, the

District Judge denied defense motions that he recuse himself pursuant to 28 U. S. C. 455(a), which requires a federal judge to "disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned." The first motion was based on rulings and statements this same judge made, which allegedly displayed impatience, disregard, and animosity toward the defense, during and after petitioner Bourgeois' 1983 bench trial on similar charges. The second motion was founded on the judge's admonishment of Bourgeois' counsel and co-defendants in front of the jury at the 1991 trial. In affirming petitioners' convictions, the Court of Appeals agreed with the District Judge that matters arising from judicial proceedings are not a proper basis for recusal.

Held: Required recusal under 455(a) is subject to the limitation that has come to be known as the "extrajudicial source" doctrine. Pp. 543-556. (a) The doctrine—see United States v. Grinnell Corp., 384 U. S. 563, 583—applies to 455(a). It was developed under 144, which requires disqualification for "personal bias or prejudice." That phrase is repeated as a recusal ground in 455(b)(1), and 455(a), addressing disqualification for appearance of partiality, also covers "bias or prejudice." The absence of the word "personal" in 455(a) does not preclude the doctrine's application, since the textual basis for the doctrine is the pejorative connotation of the words "bias or prejudice," which indicate a judicial predisposition that is wrongful or inappropriate. Similarly, because the term "partiality" refers only to such favoritism as is, for some reason, wrongful or inappropriate, 455(a)'s requirement of recusal whenever there exists a genuine question concerning a judge's impartiality does not preclude the doctrine's application. A contrary finding would cause the statute, in a significant sense, to contradict itself, since (petitioners acknowledge) 455(b)(1) embodies the doctrine, and 455(a) duplicates 455(b)'s protection with regard to "bias and prejudice." Pp. 543-553. (b) However, it is better to speak of the existence of an "extrajudicial source" factor, than of a doctrine, because the presence of such a source does not necessarily establish bias, and its absence does not necessarily

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