By: Tigran W. EldredThe U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Williams v. Pennsylvania, handed down during the turmoil in the presidential campaign over the heated rhetoric on judicial impartiality, adds to the Supreme Court’s growing jurisprudence on the due process requirements for judicial disqualification. The issue in the case—whether a justice on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court could properly adjudicate a death penalty case when he had previously been the prosecutor who authorized capital charges against the defendant—set the stage for a ruling that could have provided broad guidance on the due process parameters for judicial disqualification, especially in criminal cases. Yet the Court’s holding may end up having only limited impact. As others have already started to note, the test announced by the Court—“that under the Due Process Clause there is an impermissible risk of actual bias when a judge earlier had significant, personal involvement as a prosecutor in a crucial decision regarding the defendant’s case”—will be hard to prove and adds little additional guidance to what is already available under existing ethical standards for judicial recusal in most states. In addition, my guess is that there are few cases in which a prosecutor-turned-judge will be asked to rule on a case in which he or she was previously involved, so this test is likely to directly apply to only a narrow band of future situations.
By: Jordan M. SingerOn Monday, August 31, Gregory Hobbs will step down as Associate Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, a position he has held for the past nineteen years. I was extremely fortunate to serve as a law clerk for Justice Hobbs for the 2000–2001 term. On the occasion of his retirement from the bench, I wanted to add my voice to the chorus of praise for this extraordinary public servant. Justice Hobbs was (is!) a water law expert, a historian, a poet, a keen cultural observer, and a man with his finger on the pulse of the communities he served. More than once during my clerkship, he reminded me that the Court’s authority came with profound responsibility: each decision directly affected lives and livelihoods. There was no place for judicial (or judicial clerk) egotism or haughtiness. At a time when the news cycle and daytime television converged to create a culture celebrating sassy, snarky judges, Justice Hobbs was always a jurist of remarkable care and humility.
Contributing Editor: Kevin MortimerThe Honorable Judge William G. Young, speaker at New England Law Review’s Fall 2013 Symposium, is a United States Federal Judge for the District of Massachusetts. A native of Huntington, New York, Judge Young received his A.B., magna cum laude, from Harvard University in 1962, served our nation as a United States Army Captain from 1962 to 1964, and earned his LL.B. from Harvard Law School in 1967. Following his graduation, Judge Young served as a law clerk to the Honorable Raymond S. Wilkins of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (1967–1968), Special Assistant to the Massachusetts Attorney General (1970–1972), and Chief Counsel to Governor Francis W. Sargent (1972–1974). After serving on the Massachusetts Superior Court for eight years, President Ronald Reagan nominated Judge Young to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts in March 1985. Judge Young went on to serve as Chief Judge from 1999 to 2005.