NJ Law Outlines the Conditions for Filing a Motion for Recusal
Our Seasoned Family Lawyers Can Help You Understand When and Why a Motion for Recusal is Valid in Freehold, Toms River, Jackson, and Ocean and Monmouth County, NJ
Since the creation of the United States Constitution, judges have enjoyed a one-third portion of the checks and balances system of our government. They wield vast power; however, it is kept in check by the other branches of government. Judges have multiple functions depending on the type of matter they are presiding over. Judges can sometimes act as “finders of fact,” where the facts of the case are presented to them, and the judge ultimately decides which facts are credible and reliable enough for the evidence, arguments, and the decision of the matter to be based on. Judges always act as interpreters that apply the law of the land to the facts presented before them. Judges are inherently unbiased in their duties, providing an educated and experienced explanation to the decision they arrive at in a completely neutral perception of the facts. However, the question remains: when and why is requesting a change of judge appropriate in a family law case in New Jersey. Let’s delve into this issue.
Frequent Grounds for Requesting a Different Judge in NJ
There are numerous reasons that you may want to request another judge to preside over your matter. The most common reason would be that the judge has a bias or prejudice, making you believe that the judge will decide the case based on a prior opinion they may have regarding you or your adversary. To force a judge to recuse or remove themselves from your case, your attorney would have to show “actual bias.” Experienced attorneys in this specific strategy know that the easiest way to show this is to prove that the judge had some form of previous relationship or currently has a relationship with one of the parties in the matter.
If I Disagree with the Judge’s Decision, Can I ask for Recusal?
To have standing to bring a case or matter before a particular court is the court’s ability to impose redressability. Redressability is the court’s ability to impose a decision that carries weight and is capable of solving the situation whether or not the parties agree with it. The appeals feature of your judicial system is where issues like this can be dealt with. Just because you did not like the judge or the judge’s decision, does not mean you can switch the judge hearing your matter. Judges go through a rigorous onboarding process, and their character and integrity are put to the ultimate test before they take the bench.
Judicial Substitution Process
If there is a legitimate basis for requesting a new judge in your matter, your attorney must file a motion with the court requesting that the judge recuse themselves from the matter. This is something you can do without the help of an attorney. It is highly recommended to get an experienced attorney to file the motion due to a formal motion being required by the court that provides evidence of why a recusal is necessary for the matter to proceed in an unbiased manner.
Only an experienced attorney in familial disputes and recusing judges should file the motion on your behalf. The judge ultimately has the authority to decide the fate of your case. The motion must be brought with legitimate grounds and a valid basis for your argument. These motions must be handled very delicately.
Court Rule 1:12-1
Court Rule 1:12-1 lays out the groundwork for recusal and what counts as a legitimate basis for seeking recusal. Most obviously, if the judge is closely related (by blood or not) to one of the parties. Closely related is defined as being second-cousins or closer with the judge. Further, the judge cannot be first cousins or closer with any attorney of record in the action or there partners, employers, and/or employees. The judge could not have been the attorney of record and could not have previously given an opinion on a disputed issue in the matter. Any interest that the judge may have in the matter, financial or otherwise, immediately disqualifies the judge as well.
Utilizing Lessons From Prior Important Case Law
In P.M. v. N.P., the presiding judge employed a law clerk that had accepted a position with one of the parties to the case. The judge denied the motion for recusal and was very vague in answering any questions that the moving party had regarding the relationship. The timeline and the exact relationship of the judge and the law clerk were issues that the Appellate Division remanded back. The Appellate Division also vacated the judge’s order pending the determinations of the factual disputes warranting the judge’s recusal.
In Ramundo v. Ramundo, a motion of recusal was filed because the moving party felt that the presiding judge was involved in spreading rumors about one of the litigants. Ultimately, the Appellate Division found the litigant’s claims to be lacking merit. There were many disparaging things that came out during discovery regarding this litigant, and the litigant was not satisfied with the judge’s ruling. The Appellate Division stated that being dissatisfied with a judge’s ruling does not warrant recusal.
Our Experienced Brick Attorneys can Help with Motions for Recusal in NJ Family Courts
Experienced attorneys are absolutely essential in filing motions of recusal. These specific motions can be difficult; however, they can be successfully argued with an experienced family lawyer molding the facts of the arguments to fit within Court Rule 1:12-1. These matters are extremely delicate, and hiring the wrong attorney to file a motion for recusal can be the deciding factor in your case, whether it involves divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, or any other family law-related issue. At Bronzino Law Firm, we have extensive experience handling motions of recusal and identifying justifiable reasons for such motions in family law cases in Bayhead, Red Bank, Rumson, Colts Neck. Freehold, Toms River, Manchester, Stafford and other towns along the Jersey Shore. Not every reason is valid; however, it is important to understand your options and have a lawyer with the know-how to determine your best approach forward. Call (732) 812-3102 today.