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Child custody case highlights issue of judicial impartiality

Central to the American legal system is the expectation of every litigant that the arbiter of a dispute will be equally fair to all parties.

In other words, a core notion concerning the judiciary is that a judge will not favor one party over the other in a legal matter, but will instead be guided only by the facts in rendering a decision.

That neutrality was challenged in one jurisdiction recently following a ruling announced in a divorce matter by a judge in Minnesota. The matter is summarized here, given that similar claims of judicial bias can arise just as easily in Florida or any other state.

The venue was a county court, with the issue centered on whether the father or mother should receive primary custody of the couple's three children. The woman told the judge that she wanted to separate the children from her former spouse's religious view buttressed in the Bible that wives should be subservient to their husbands, which she did not agree with.

The judge essentially sided with the mother as noted by her comment from the bench that she "dismissed" the idea. She gave custody of the children to the mother.

The father appealed on grounds of judicial bias that tainted the ruling.

A state appellate court handed down its decision last month in the form of a lengthy ruling that discussed the interjection of the lower court. The court upheld the ruling, noting that, while the judge expressed personal comments, her decision was not tainted by her stated opinions.

That view was not unanimous, with one justice dissenting. His view was that the judge's comment served to overtly display her view and position on a core matter of contention in the dispute in a manner that showed clear preference for one side.

Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Bible verse prompts appeal of Stearns County child custody case," Jeremy Olson, April 11, 2013

  • With proven passion and conviction, we represent both Florida mothers and fathers in matters relating to child custody and visitation. For relevant information, please visit our Miami, Florida, Child Custody/Visitation page.

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