May 20, 2009

On the appearance of bias

¶8 The right to an impartial judge is fundamental to our notion of due process. ...

¶9 Objective bias can exist in two situations. The first is where there is the appearance of bias. "[T]he appearance of bias offends constitutional due process principles whenever a reasonable person—taking into consideration human psychological tendencies and weaknesses—concludes that the average judge could not be trusted to 'hold the balance nice, clear and true' under all the circumstances." Thus, the appearance of partiality constitutes objective bias when a reasonable person could question the court’s impartiality based on the court’s statements. The second form of objective bias occurs where "there are objective facts demonstrating ... the trial judge in fact treated [the defendant] unfairly."

State v. Goodson, No. 2008AP2623-CR (Wis. Ct. App., May 19, 2009).

Related: For Gableman, every case is a controversy.

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