Striking the Judge: Be Careful What You Wish For
We have probably all seen a depiction of Lady Justice, the blindfolded woman holding a sword in one hand and a set of scales in the other. The scales are what she uses to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of a litigation case, and the blindfold reminds us that justice is blind to the status of the parties, such as wealth or power. Finally the sword reminds us of the authority of justice. While this figure may represent the ideal in how a judge views a case, it is also true that every judge is a person, with his or her own interpretations, understandings and preferences.
Accordingly, even the nine justices on the United States Supreme Court, representing some of the brightest legal minds in the country, frequently disagree on how cases are to be decided. It is not surprising that the announcement of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the Supreme Court has caused some very strong feelings on both sides of the political aisle regarding his replacement. People who are impacted by a case want a judge who sees things the way they do.
A party does not get to choose her judge, however. That does not mean that a party has no options when a judge is assigned to a case. In Arizona state courts, a party is generally allowed the right to change a judge as long as certain conditions are met, including that the judge has not yet made a ruling on any matters involved in the case. Another rule allows a party to change a judge if it can be established that the judge:
- has been engaged as counsel in the action prior to appointment or election as judge
- is otherwise interested in the action
- is kin or related to either party to the action
- is a material witness to the action
While a judge may be removed from a case for the reasons stated above, the rules do not allow a party to choose who the replacement judge will be. Moreover, regardless of who the judge is, predicting how a judge will rule on a particular issue is still no more than a guess. I was in law school when I first heard the joke that the way a judge rules will depend on what he had for breakfast that morning. The point is, you typically cannot know ahead of time how a judge will rule. Instead of foreseeing the future, a litigant should focus on proving its case to give it the greatest chance for success. Please contact Rowley Chapman & Barney at (480) 833-1113 if you want experienced and skilled attorneys to help with your case.