Due Process – Can a Litigant Appoint His Judge?

In this interview on judicial ethics and judicial recusal, Alicia Bannon (Brennan Center for Justice) explains the rules and laws involving recusal and how it applies in the unique instance where the judge was appointed by a litigant in a case before her. Bannon goes on to apply judical ethics and law to the case involving President Trump before Judge Aileen Cannon, whom Trump appointed in 2020. Legally, must a judge recuse herself from a case involving the person who appointed her to the job? 

According to Bannon, the short answer is no.  Simply appointing a judge is unlikely to meet the test of "actual bias" as established by the Supreme Court case, Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co. The conversation then focuses on the application of recusal standards in the case involving former President Donald Trump and the seizure of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago. In that case, Bannon explains, the fact that Judge Cannon was appointed by Trump would likely not, in and of itself, require recusal by Judge Cannon. 

Alicia Bannon is a nationally recognized expert on U.S. courts and serves as the director of the Judiciary Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

Additional Resources

Related Cases

Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co. – Supreme Court of the United States (2009)


Related Interviews

Recusal & the Bounds of Judicial Bias – an in-depth conversation on recusal law and ethics with Alicia Bannon