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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Tenn. High Court Grants Lawyer’s Recusal Request

(CN) - A Tennessee judge should have recused himself from a trial due to his acrimonious relationship with one of the attorneys, the state Supreme Court ruled.

Brandon Bean sued three defendants after his car collided with a horse. Attorney John Rogers represented Bean.

Rogers asked that Judge John Wilson recuse himself from the case and for all others involving Rogers and his firm in order to avoid the appearance of bias and prejudice.

The problems between Rogers and the judge stemmed from an election for district attorney, in which Rogers and Wilson supported different candidates. Wilson allegedly threatened that Rogers' clients would suffer if Rogers didn't persuade Wilson's candidate - who won the election - not to transfer an officer of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

In 1990, Rogers faced a claim of malicious prosecution, and Wilson complied with Rogers' recusal request. The acrimony between the two sides continued until 1997, after which there was an 11-year gap in dealings between Wilson and Rogers.

In the present case, Wilson refused to recuse himself, stating that he could be "fair and impartial."

On appeal, Justice Holder ruled that Wilson should step away from the case. His reliance on unidentified "officials" who cleared him to handle one of Rogers' cases is not sufficient, according to Holder.

"In making his decision, Judge Wilson failed to consider whether a person of ordinary prudence in his position would find a reasonable basis to question his impartiality," Holder wrote.

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