Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Sanctions, Discipline & Recusal

The fact that a judge enters sanctions against a litigant or its counsel does not mandate recusal of the judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455, even if the judge also refers counsel's conduct to the appropriate disciplinary authorities, under the decision in Conklin v. Warrington Township, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10478 (M.D. Pa. Feb. 15, 2007). The issue for recusal is actual "personal bias or prejudice" under the statute. The award of sanctions, as such, is simply a legal ruling, and "a party's displeasure with legal rulings does not form an adequate basis for recusal" (citation and quotation omitted). Referral to the disciplinary authorities, moreover, "represents the performance of a judicial obligation. Indeed, one of the benefits of such referrals is that it allows for an independent review of counsel's offending conduct."

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