Judges are supposed to hear cases before them and make fair judgements based on the law. But what if a judge has a bias? Maybe a conflict of interest? When should a judge  step aside or recuse themself from hearing a case?

“I definitely think judges can be bought. I think they’re bought everyday.”

–Tonisha Howard

If a judge’s family member has an interest in a case, most people would agree the judge should step aside. Recuse themself. Bow out. But what if a judge stands to directly profit from the outcome a case? That seems pretty cut and dry too. But what if one of the parties in a case being heard by a judge contributed money to the judge’s campaign in a judicial election? What then?

As money floods into judicial elections throughout the country, states grapple with this question. Perhaps no state more than Wisconsin, where like in many other states, the final decision of whether or not a judge should step aside from hearing a case, or recuse themself, is left up to the judge.

Chloe Prasinos brings us “Recuse Yourself” — Part 3 in our 2016 series of reports on A Fair Fight for a Fair Court.




Recuse Yourself was reported by Chloe Prasinos and edited by Nancy Mullane, with sound design and production by Shani Aviram.  Alyssa Bernstein, Annie Aviles and Kirsten Jusewicz-Haidle provided production support.

The music in this episode is from Blue Dot Sessions.

Full Transcript of Recuse Yourself




This episode of Life of the Law was funded in part by grants from the Open Society Foundations, the Law and Society Association, the Proteus Fund, the  Ford Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.

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