Vagueness at the Highest Level: How the Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings Brought an Infrequently Discussed Legal Topic Back into the Spotlight--Recusal


Recusal has been present in one form or another in most civilized societies dating back to the sixteenth century. Today, recusal law finds its place in American jurisprudence at §§ 144 & 455. The scarce case law and lack of scholarly attention given to recusal perpetuates its aura of ambiguity and makes application of recusal standards to real factual situations difficult. When D.C. Circuit judge John Roberts interviewed with high White House officials seven days prior to hearing Hamdan v. Rumsfeld—a case where President Bush was a defendant and also the personal designator of Salim Hamdan as an enemy combatant—the contemporaneous events seemed to place the future Chief Justice in the scope of the § 455(a) recusal standard. An in depth look into other controversial § 455(a) situations, which involved high profile justices, will evince the need for recusal reform. After careful consideration of several scholars’ recusal reform proposals, this Comment recommends the formation of an independent oversight committee composed entirely of retired federal judges.


Administrative Law | Constitutional Law | Judges | Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility

Date of this Version

April 2006