A criminal judge should be an impartial arbitrator of the law. Their job is to review a situation and apply existing law and legal precedent to the case in a manner that upholds justice. They, therefore, need to remain up-to-date on any crucial rulings from other courts and any changes to state or federal statutes. Judges have a lot of control over what happens in a criminal case. They determine what evidence the prosecution can present and can determine the penalty someone will face after a conviction or guilty plea.
Unfortunately, not all judges carry out their duties with the impartiality and professionalism that their role requires. In some cases, a judge’s behavior is so problematic that it may be a reason for a criminal defendant to file an appeal. When might a judge’s behavior lead to someone seeking post-conviction relief?
1. When a judge does not disclose a conflict of interest
Maybe the judge has a social relationship with someone who is close with the alleged victim in the case. Perhaps there are prior professional ties that might lead to a bias. Personal, financial and familial complications could lead to a conflict of interest that affects the judge and potentially influences the outcome of the case. When a judge does not disclose a significant conflict of interest and recuse themselves from the case, claims of bias might potentially lead to an appeal later.
2. When a judge misinterprets the law
Sometimes, a judge reaches a conclusion that seems contrary to both the general legal consensus and the established precedent on the matter. There are many scenarios in which a defendant and their attorney may find themselves questioning whether different specific legal determinations made by the judge were accurate or not. In cases where there was a mistake in the interpretation or application of the law, the mistake by the judge could potentially lead to an appeal.
Post-conviction relief, including appeals in criminal court, is an opportunity worth exploring for many people who unsuccessfully fought against criminal charges at trial. Seeking legal guidance in order to establish whether someone’s situation meets the criteria for filing an appeal is an important first step for those who are dissatisfied with the outcome of a criminal trial.