Sunday, July 04, 2010

In Belatedly Released Opinion, Judge Says Religion Is Not Basis for Recusal

Last week, a New York federal judge belatedly docketed an opinion that had been prepared in 1998 but not previously released, in which he rejected a motion that he recuse himself because of his religion in a civil rights case against the murderer of an Orthodox Jewish student in the 1991 Crown Height Riot. Defendant in the case based his motion in part on the fact that federal district judge David Trager who was presiding in his trial is an Orthodox Jew. In United States v. Nelson, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63814 (ED NY, June 28, 2010), Judge Trager held that religion is an impermissible basis on which to challenge a judge, saying "defendant's argument stands on the same infirm footing as motions that have been made to recuse my African-American and female colleagues in civil rights cases where the victim of the alleged discrimination was black or female." The motion, he said, also implicates Art. VI, clause 3 of the Constitution that bars any religious test for holding public office.