STATE v. MACK MILNER, SC 19759
Judicial District of Hartford
Criminal; Whether Court Applied Proper Legal Standard in Ruling on Motion for Judicial Disqualification. The defendant was charged with several crimes, including criminal trespass, in connection with an incident at Saint Francis Hospital when he was an emergency room patient. The defendant moved that the judge presiding over the trial disqualify himself, claiming that there was a conflict of interest because the judge disclosed that he previously had been employed by Saint Francis Hospital, the “victim” of the trespassing charge. The judge denied the motion, stating that he reviewed Rule 2.11 of the Code of Judicial Conduct and did not believe that a conflict existed. Rule 2.11 provides that a judge shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned. The judge noted that he no longer worked for the hospital, that he did not recognize the names of the possible witnesses, that the hospital was not a real party to the action and that he could be fair and impartial. The defendant was convicted and he appeals, claiming that the court improperly denied his motion for disqualification. He contends that the court applied the wrong standard in ruling on his motion for disqualification because, while the judge properly considered whether he could be fair and impartial, the controlling standard is whether a reasonable person would question his impartiality on the basis of all the circumstances.