The Ricci v. DeStefano case (now on remand from the U.S. Supreme Court) has vanished from the headlines, but the case is still kicking around as the courts and the parties attempt to fashion a remedy that fits with the judgment in favor of the plaintiffs.
For some time now, however, the plaintiffs have made some oral arguments at various proceedings that the United States District Court Judge Janet Arterton should recuse herself from the case. Those accusations rose to a new level on Tuesday when they filed a lengthy motion to that effect.
The judge has steadfastly denied thus far that she has done anything improper whatsoever in transcripts to various proceedings.
I would be remiss if I did not note that these types of motions should be viewed skeptically for a number of reasons, most particularly that they don’t claim to present a balanced picture. The judge is also limited in how she can respond publicly, and thus, there is much more to these issues than is being discussed.
But ask yourself when you read the motions: Are the plaintiffs justified in making claims here? Can a fear that the judge will be impartial be enough no matter how unreasonable that fear is? Is a judge barred from having public outreach on a case just because it is high-profile? And if a judge is later reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court, does that "taint" the original judge from hearing the case on remand?
I’m sure a lot of people will answer "no" to these questions. Take another example, the plaintiffs suggest that there was something improper about the judge attending oral argument in the case before the Supreme Court saying it was unusual. But even if that’s the case, the question arises: What is wrong with that behavior? How does that mean that the judge will be impartial?
There is no timeframe yet on when the judge will rule on the recusal motion and the City of New Haven has 21 days to respond.