Conflict of interest

In this article, someone accuses a judge of having a conflict of interest because the judge donated to the DA’s election campaign 3-4 years ago, when the judge wasn’t a judge at the time.

A conflict of interest is not knowing someone, having worked with someone, or having supported someone’s campaign — especially if the “someone” is a lawyer working on the case and not even the plaintiff or the defendant. Judges and lawyers are going to know one another.

When the outcome of a case might have a financial or personal consequence for the judge, that is a conflict of interest because the judge’s interests might be opposed to either the plaintiff or the defendant, instead of being a neutral third party. An example might be if the judge has stock in a company that is one of the parties, or someone in the judge’s immediate family has stock in or is one of the parties, that might get the judge thinking about their own consequences from the result of the case.

Also, a personal or political bias is not a conflict of interest. If a judge has made it known that they think murderers should be locked up, and they’re trying a murder case, that’s not a conflict because the case is about whether the defendant is a murderer or not. Of course the defendant will have consequences if they lose, even if a judge didn’t publicly make a statement like that.

It’s very important for public officials to avoid real conflict of interest and ideally avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, but only a real conflict of interest should be a cause for recusal, and we have to ignore or actively oppose anyone who claims a conflict that doesn’t exist, because that is just a way to discredit the result or try to get someone else assigned who might rule favorably to them and that’s not justice either.

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