The appearance of impropriety

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Well, it turns out the judge that ruled the NSA terrorist eavesdropping program unconstitutional, immoral and high in saturated fats has a connection to one of the groups that brought the lawsuit — the ACLU.

Some legal ethicists interviewed said yesterday that while Taylor’s role as a trustee at a nonprofit group supporting the ACLU would not necessarily disqualify her from hearing the high-profile wiretapping case, she probably should have disclosed the connection in court to avoid any appearance of a conflict.

Sometimes the appearances are important for maintaining trust in the system. Even though the judge failed to disclose this connection with one of the parties in the case, I don’t think this fact would have much in the way of traction had the judge’s ruling been on more solid legal ground. When you’ve got serious, learned people on your own side being dismissive of your legal arguments, then what would in ordinary circumstances be ho-hum all of the sudden merits much more serious skepticism.

0 Responses to "The appearance of impropriety"
  1. Everyman says:

    The standard test, laid down by the Supreme Court years ago, is whether a reasonable person, fully-informed, would doubt the impartiality of the judge involved. The judge’s impartiality, or even appearance of impartiality, could be tested here by a motion under Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking to vacate her ruling.

    Appearance of partiality?

    Might be.

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