(CN) - Two Montana federal judges named as defendants in a pro se complaint claiming a vast government conspiracy do not have to recuse themselves from the case, the Ninth Circuit ruled Wednesday.
Ron Glick, who was convicted in 2005 in Montana state court for sexually assaulting his girlfriend's 13-year-old daughter, filed a host of civil suits after his 2009 release, claiming that the government widely conspired to persecute him and violate his constitutional rights.
Among Glick's 19 named defendants were his probation officer, Dave Edwards, as well as U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy and U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch, who had ruled against Glick in prior lawsuits.
Molloy and Lynch declined to recuse themselves from judging Glick's conspiracy claims and Glick appealed, arguing that they were disqualified because he had named them as defendants.
But he also sued the District Court itself, thus intending to sue every judge in the District of Montana, according to the Ninth Circuit's 11-page opinion. Thus, by his logic, every judge in the district would be disqualified.
Writing for the three-judge panel in Seattle, Ninth Circuit Judge Carlos Bea cited a proceeding before the English Court of Common Pleas in 1430, in which the court considered whether the Chancellor of Oxford could preside over an action sounding in trespass where he was a defendant.
Since there was no provision for the appointment of another judge, the chancellor had to hear his own case, Bea said.
"We note, of course, that judges are not saints," Bea said. "Nor do we expect them to be."
"But as in the Oxford case from Lancastrian times, we recognize there may be circumstances where recusal will not suffice. Sometimes - by necessity - a judge must judge himself."
Glick's case, the panel found, constitutes just such a circumstance.
By the rule of necessity, Bea said, "that ancient exception to the rules of recusal first recorded in the Oxford case" applies here, since Glick "indiscriminately sued every judge in the District of Montana."
"We acknowledge that the rule of necessity should be invoked rarely in our system of justice, in which the appearance of justice is an aspect of justice itself," he said.
"But our system cannot function if it cannot resolve cases."
Bea wrote that the panel was "confident that the checks and balances enshrined in our constitutional framework will effectively mitigate the risk that the trial of an actual conspiracy comprising an entire Federal Court will be improperly squelched by the judges involved."
As an alternative to his case's handling by a Montana district court judge, Glick had proposed that his case be reviewed by a panel of judges designated by the Chief Justice of the United States.
Bea dismissed this proposal, writing that the panel will not "require courts to acquiesce to the extraordinary demands of vexatious litigants."
On his blog, The Great Montana Conspiracy, Glick slammed the Ninth Circuit's decision Thursday as "blatantly unconstitutional" and promised to seek a rehearing.
"I hope you are just as chilled by this decision as I am," Glick wrote. "This is an incredibly dangerous ruling, because it provides district court judges absolute power over their own actions. Literally, this decision makes way for any judge to decide he doesn't have to be prosecuted, regardless how heinous the crime - and what percentage of criminals ever want to answer for their crimes? I hope you will agree and stand behind me as I continue to challenge this blatant effort to defend the institution of political imprisonment in America."
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