Former Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ron Castille who ruled on a case he once dealt with while serving as the Philadelphia district attorney has blasted as “completely wrong” today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision, which said he should have recused from the case, reported The Legal Intelligencer..
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for a 5-3 majority, ruled 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 critical decision regarding the defendant’s case.”
“No attorney is more integral to the accusatory process than a prosecutor who participates in a major adversary decision,” the ruling stated. “As a result, a serious question arises as to whether a judge who has served as an advocate for the State in the very case the court is now asked to adjudicate would be influenced by an improper, if inadvertent, motive to validate and preserve the result obtained through the adversary process.”
Castille said that the ruling was an overreaction by the court that would have wide-ranging effects throughout the country.
“Any county judge who had something to do with a murder case where they didn’t try it, but merely were administrators, those cases could all be in jeopardy by the lack of analysis by the Supreme Court,” Castille said. “I think it’s extremely short-sighted by the court.”
The U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Williams v. Pennsylvania. The 5-3 ruling held that judges who had “significant, personal involvement” in a case during a previous role as prosecutor must now recuse when ruling on the case at a later stage.
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