February 14, 2015 • Personal Injury FAQs
Can You Switch Trial Judges
Your personal injury case has come up for trial, and it is assigned to a particular trial judge. Now if you do not like this particular judge, can you go ahead and switch trial judges?
The answer is no. You will not be able to change the judge just because you do not like him, or just because he has made rulings against you. However, there are very limited instances where you can have a particular trial judge removed from the case. This means, you have to ask the judge to recuse himself, or excuse himself from trying that particular case. However, in order to do that, you should have a poignant and concrete reason.
The Judge has a Connection with the Defendant
For instance, it is a medical malpractice case and you are suing a doctor for violating the basic standards of medical care, and you have suffered significant injuries because of that violation. In this scenario, this judge who is assigned to your case happens to be a patient of this doctor you are suing.
Now you will have to ask the judge to excuse himself from the trial. Your lawyer will tell the judge, “Your honor, we have learnt that you are in fact a patient of this doctor we are suing, and therefore we are asking you to recuse yourself”. The judge will then give both the lawyers the opportunity to put forward their arguments.
After hearing both sides, the judge will have to make a decision about excusing himself from this case or not, because there was some connection with the doctor. The lawyer might have claimed that because of this connection, it is possible for the judge to favor the doctor. If the judge accepts this possibility, he might recuse himself from the case.
There should be a Valid Reason for Asking to Switch Judges
There might be other instances where the connection is not so obvious, and the judge might not accept any arguments and will not excuse himself from the case. Hence, just because you do not like the judge, or you do not like the judge’s rulings of his prior cases or of your present case, it does not mean you can ask the particular judge to excuse himself and bring in a new judge.
Unless there is a valid reason and there is a prolific argument that shows a strong connection of the judge with either of the two parties, the judge cannot be switched. Secondly, it is the judge who is assigned to your case, who will take the decision to recuse himself or not. This means, unless the judge feels he is going to be biased to any one of the parties of the case, he is not going to excuse himself.