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Court: Judge who officiated at lawyer’s wedding but didn’t go to reception can hear attorney’s cases

Posted Mar 5, 2014 12:45 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A judge who officiated at a lawyer's wedding can still hear the attorney's cases, a California appeals court ruled Tuesday.

But that result might be different, the Fourth District Court of Appeal suggested, if the San Diego Superior Court commissioner whose conduct was at issue in the case had attended the lawyer's wedding reception, the Metropolitan News-Enterprise reports.

The case involved post-judgment proceedings in a matrimonial matter. The ex-husband asked Commissioner Patti Ratekin to step down from hearing his case when he learned that Ratekin was going to officiate at the wedding of the lawyer representing his ex-wife. However, a trial judge held and the appellate court agreed that Ratekin's recusal was not required.

The “average person on the street” wouldn't think a judge is biased toward the lawyer just because the judge acted as an officiant, Justice Judith Haller wrote in the Division One appellate case. However, attending the reception or otherwise being involved in a social relationship with the attorney could create reasonable doubt about the judge’s impartiality, Haller wrote.

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