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Nahmias Announces Recusal Policy

October 6, 2009

Today’s Fulton County Daily Report notes that Justice David Nahmias has announced his intention to recuse from consideration of any case in which King & Spalding appears as counsel for a party unless the parties agree otherwise.  Nahmias’ wife is an equity party at King & Spalding, and is paid based on the a share of the profits of the firm instead of being paid a salary.  As a result, there is at least an appearance that she would stand to gain from success of the firm in appellate courts.

Nahmias’ order came in response to a motion for him to recuse filed in Friends of the Chattahoochee v. Longleaf Energy Associates.  (The Court denied certiorari in that case without Nahmias’ participation on September 28, 2009.)  Although he noted that filing an order announcing a standard of recusal is unusual, he felt it was best to clarify the point, which had been raised in several cases.  The order walks through all of the relevant statutory and case law related to recusal, concluding that, consistent with the Canons of Judicial Conduct, “judges still must disqualify themselves ‘in any proceeding in which their impartiality might reasonably be questioned.'”  He found that under guidance from past cases at the Georgia Supreme Court, his recusal is required in any case where his wife’s firm appears on behalf of a party.

Nahmias closed by stating, “Nevertheless, it is imperative that the public have faith and trust in the impartiality of the justice system, Stephens, 249 Ga. at 702, and any ‘appearance of impropriety’ that may exist is enhanced where the relative at issue is the judge’s spouse. Therefore, I will disqualify myself from any case in which King & Spalding lawyers are actively representing a party before this Court, including this case.”

A copy of Nahmias’ order is available on the site.

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