07 May 2021

The Impact Of A Judicial Finding That A Judge Is Racist

A Colorado Court of Appeals decision released yesterday sets forth the procedural next steps in a case where Colorado Supreme Court disciplined the judge who terminated their parental rights for racist conduct and the parents alleged that the judge's racism denied them a fair hearing (something that was discovered only once the appeal of their cases on other grounds was fully briefed).

The resolution was to order a limited remand for a hearing before a new judge over whether the disciplined judge's racism tainted the result in their case and should authorize a new hearing on that ground on an expedited basis. 

This is a sensible enough result, although it arguably would have been simpler and more efficient in this particular case to simply vacate the racist judge's ruling and order a new hearing on the merits before a new judge. 

Presumably, the Court of Appeals did not do so because it was sensitive to the risk that a huge swath of cases decided by the resigned racist judge would be upended despite the fact that many of the rulings probably had nothing to do with racial bias.

Still, this is a much better result than one which would have simply favored finality over the merits in the face of a judicially established case of judicial bias that plausibly applied in this particular case.

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