Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (F-9963-96) (Hon. Linda D. Turner, Trial Judge)
Before Terry and Reid, Associate Judges, and Mack, Senior Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terry, Associate Judge
Submitted September 21, 2000
This is an appeal from a conviction on two counts of assault. *fn1 At trial, appellant York moved for recusal of the trial judge, arguing that the fact that the judge was married to a police officer and that her late brother had been Chief of Police several years earlier created an appearance of bias in favor of one of the complainants, a police officer, and other witnesses who were also police officers. On appeal York maintains that the judge's failure to recuse herself was reversible error. We affirm.
On November 13, 1996, York attended a public meeting in the District of Columbia concerning the possible federalization of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). At the meeting, York took a microphone from the moderator and launched into a lengthy discourse concerning his personal distaste for the police force. When he refused to yield the microphone, a scuffle ensued, during which York punched the moderator and tackled a uniformed police officer. *fn2 Appellant was arrested by other officers present at the meeting and charged with two counts of assault.
The case was set for trial before a Superior Court judge, sitting without a jury. *fn3 Before the trial began, the judge asked counsel to approach the bench, where she disclosed the following:
I see from the trial calendar that the complainant may be a police officer. . . . I just wanted to disclose to counsel that I'm married to a police officer. I always disclose that when I'm the fact finder in these kinds of cases.
Defense counsel responded that he would "have a motion then," and the judge responded that counsel was "free to make it when [his] client appear[ed]." Because appellant was late in arriving, the case was passed for fifteen minutes while the judge took up other matters.
Appellant soon arrived at the courthouse, and the trial began. At the outset, defense counsel made an oral motion to recuse the judge, stating that "there is certainly an appearance of a conflict, in view of the exposure that the court has had to police officers and your familiarity with them." The judge denied the motion, stating:
Well, the court does raise, in these particular cases where there is a police officer who is a complainant, the fact that it is married to a police officer. I really don't even disclose that I had a brother, who is now deceased, who was Chief of Police. *fn4 That was years and years ago. But I do disclose the fact that I'm married to a police officer who is a detective . . . . So given that there has been no bias pointed to, actual bias outside of the courtroom, the court will deny the motion, but it's preserved for the record.
Defense counsel made no further argument in support of his motion to recuse. The trial proceeded, and the judge found appellant guilty on both counts of assault, sentencing him to two concurrent jail terms of thirty days each.
Appellant maintains on appeal, as he did below, that the judge's family relationship with two police officers created an appearance of judicial impartiality and that his conviction ...