St. Lucie, Florida judge Philip Yacucci Jr. has received a 30 day suspension from the bench for refusing to recuse himself from cases involving a certain lawyer. Apparently, Judge Yacucci had a "longstanding combative relationship" with the lawyer. And when the judge refused to recuse himself from that attorney's cases, according to the state's Supreme Court, it created "legitimate fears of partiality and bias" against his clients.
Campaigning for Conflict
According to Judge Yacucci, the attorney in question had run against him during the 2012 election for the express purpose of forcing a conflict and future recusals. However, it is noted that the court found Yacucci repeatedly failed in his duty to be impartial over a period of years.
Further, in the dissent, it is not contested that Yacucci's 30 day suspension was in error, but rather that it was too light. Two justices agreed that it should have been a 90 day suspension, given the repeated failures, as well as Yacucci's refusal to cooperate or apologize. The dissent stressed that judges have a duty to the public to be impartial.
When it comes to requesting a judge recuse themselves, it certainly can be tricky, and timing can be everything. Whether or not this judge was bamboozled into a recusal seems to matter less than the fact that he was backed into a corner and then failed to follow the judicial cannon of ethics.
However, it is worth noting that the attorney had been jailed by the judge for five days for contempt of court, and after some time, the two got into an altercation in public where the police were called. After the altercation, the judge did recuse himself from several of the attorney's cases, but then refused to do so after a motion requesting such was filed.