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Judge Removed in Paul Bergrin Trial, New Judge to be Assigned

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 15, 2012 4:01 PM

Is judicial bias an issue in the Third Circuit?

According to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the reassignment of a case to a different judge is an "extraordinary remedy that should seldom be applied," but recently, the court applied this remedy.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling on Friday which called into question the impartiality of a federal district court judge in the criminal prosecution of former criminal defense lawyer Paul Bergrin.

The 50-page ruling directed the district court to reassign the matter to a different judge. The matter had previously been heard in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge William Martini.

Paul Bergrin was a former federal prosecutor and well-known in the New Jersey legal and judicial circles. He was indicted on thirty-three charges relating to RICO violations, drug trafficking, witness tampering and tax evasion.

Two of the witness tampering accounts involved the facilitation of the murder of Kemo McRay, who was to be a witness against one of Bergrin's clients.

The district court ordered the murder charges to be severed and tried separately from the other charges. As a result, there was a hung jury and a mistrial was declared.

The Third Circuit's decision to reassign the case dealt largely in part to District Judge Martini's discomfort with combining all of the alleged crimes under the RICO umbrella. This discomfort and reluctance, the court said, was seen numerous times throughout the trial last fall.

The district court's reaction was contrary to Congressional intent, the Third Circuit held.

Now, the case has been ordered to be reassigned. The new judge will bear the burden of deciding whether or not to sever the counts in the indictment.

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