I recently posted my latest ethics column for The Bencher which provided a short overview of the standards for judicial recusal or disqualification applicable to federal judges. The standards for state judges are similar but based on slightly different rules.
Fortunately, there are not many decisions by the Delaware Court of Chancery on the standards applicable to judicial recusal or disqualification.
A recent Chancery decision applied the same standards to a Special Master as would apply to a judge in the matter styled: In re AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc. Stockholder Litigation, Consol. Civil Action No. 2023-0215-MTZ (Del. Ch. May 10, 2023). The Court applied Rule 2.11 and Rule 2.11(A) of the Code of Judicial Conduct for Delaware Judges. Rule 2.11 provides in relevant part that:
(A) A judge should disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to instances where:
(1) The judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party[;]
(2) The judge, . . . or a person within the third degree of relationship,
calculated according to the civil law system,
. . .
(c) is known by the judge to have an interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding[.]6
Regarding Rule 2.11(A), the Court explained that:
Our Supreme Court has set forth the standard where one seeks disqualification of a judicial officer under Rule 2.11(A)(1):
‘[T]he judge must engage in a two-part analysis to determine if recusal is warranted. First, the judge must determine whether she is subjectively satisfied that she can hear the case free of bias or prejudice concerning the party seeking recusal. Second, “even if the judge believes that he or she is free of bias or prejudice, the judge must objectively examine whether the circumstances require recusal because ‘there is an appearance of bias sufficient to cause doubt as to the judge’s impartiality.’
For those interested in this topic, I encourage a close review of this excellent application of the standards to the facts in this case
Postscript: This topic was also recently addressed in a recent article about a motion to disqualify the judge hearing the pending case involving the Disney Company and the Florida Governor.