Opinion: 98-134
December 3, 1998
Digest:    Recusal is not required solely because in a prior unrelated action the judge's ruling against the same party was based primarily upon the judge's assessment of the party's credibility in that earlier action.

Rule:    Judiciary Law §14; 22 NYCRR 100.3(E);
            Opinion 91-51 (Vol. VII).


            The inquiring judge had ruled in a previous non-jury case against one of the parties. The ruling was based primarily upon an evaluation of the credibility of that party. In a second and different case involving that same party, the judge inquires whether it is obligatory to recuse himself/herself solely on the basis of a recusal request by that party because of the previous decision. The judge states that he/she has an open mind and each case "stands on its own merits."

            A judge does not have to recuse himself/herself solely on the basis of past decisions involving any party. Neither section 14 of the Judiciary Law nor section 100.3(E) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct mandates recusal in the circumstances described. As a general principle, absent a specific legal requirement for recusal the judge involved should determine the propriety of sitting, based upon the judge's conscience. If, in good conscience, the judge, in the exercise of discretion, believes that the prior evaluation of credibility would not prejudice the party in this action and the judge believes that he/she can be fair and impartial, recusal is not required. See generally Opinion 91-51 (Vol. VII).