(June 15)  Florida federal District Judge Aileen Cannon really ought to recuse herself from the criminal trial of former President Donald Trump.

Cannon should do this not because she is duty-bound by any formal requirement of legal ethics, nor because she was appointed by Trump, and certainly not because leftist critics attack her as too conservative. Instead, she should recuse herself for prudential reasons related to public confidence in the judicial system.

This trial is uncharted territory for the United States, involving a former president who could face the rest of his life in prison. The situation is fraught with explosive societal ramifications. In this circumstance, written rules are merely a minimum for propriety. Here, judges should consider concerns that are ethical in the broader sense of the word. It is of paramount importance that the public have as few reasons as possible to distrust the utter fairness of the trial.

Cannon, a young judge with little courtroom experience, already handled earlier legal motions during the investigation that led to Trump’s indictment. By almost any measure, she did not acquit herself well. She granted sweeping procedural requests from Trump that did not come close to standing up to scrutiny. In an unusually stark legal rebuke, a unanimous, three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned every aspect of Cannon’s rulings….

It was a particularly devastating smackdown of Cannon’s work. It left observers believing Cannon at least subconsciously had tried to bias the proceedings wildly in Trump’s favor.

Now Cannon, by luck of the draw, has been assigned the criminal trial stemming from the same investigation whose earlier procedural questions she bollixed. Of course judges sometimes err, and it is unfair to assume she would err as badly in the trial itself. And while Cannon presents no obvious financial or personal conflict of interest, which are the usual grounds for recusal, she should recognize other considerations. In such a volatile situation, a judge should go above and beyond ordinary rules governing recusal…. [The full column is here.]



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