Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

State v. Howard

By
After a violation report was filed against defendant Ramondo Howard alleging defendant had violated the terms and conditions of his probation, defendant filed a pro se motion indicating that he wished to release his attorney and wanted new counsel to be appointed, confirming on the record he had filed a complaint against his attorney with the court's disciplinary board. The hearing justice excused defendant's attorney. Defendant then filed motions to recuse and change venues, both of which the hearing justice denied. At the violation hearing, the hearing justice found defendant to be a violator of the terms and conditions of his probation. Before the hearing began, however, the hearing justice expressed his belief that defendant needed to be "warehoused" and was "beyond rehabilitation." Defendant appealed, arguing the hearing justice erred by failing to recuse himself from the case because the justice lacked the objectivity and impartiality to fairly hear and render judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, finding that because the hearing justice chose to express his opinions prior to the commencement of the violation hearing, the justice displayed a clear inability to render fair judgment and erred by declining to recuse under the circumstances. Remanded.