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#1
Old 08-10-2013, 09:43 AM
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SCOTUS: Who decides a case when (almost) all judges have to recuse themselves?

This question is inspired by the circumstances surrounding the case of convicted murderer Napoleon Beazley: When the appeals in the case reached the Supreme Court, 3 of the 9 judges had to recuse themselves because they had personal ties to the murder victim.

What would happen if a legal case came up in which 6, maybe 7 or 8, maybe even all the judges of the United States Supreme Court had to recuse themselves?

I would assume that on any other judicial panel, there are rules in place for other judges to fill in for their colleagues. But as far as the Supreme Court of the United States is concerned, there are only 9 judges who can do the job.
#2
Old 08-10-2013, 09:48 AM
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The QUORUM is 6 minium by law, less than 6, it either gets STAYED or sent back by the Justice for that Allotment, I would imagine?
#3
Old 08-10-2013, 10:40 AM
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In state supreme courts, the bring up other judges from the court of appeals when necessary. They sit as a justice pro tem In the federal system, district court judges occasionally sit on the Court of Appeals. I suppose the SCOTUS could call up pro tem Court of Appeals judges, but I haven't researched it.
#4
Old 08-10-2013, 10:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Procrustus View Post
I suppose the SCOTUS could call up pro tem Court of Appeals judges, but I haven't researched it.
They can't. The federal Constitution is very clear that the SCOTUS consists of those justices appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

There have been several cases where recusals have forced the Supreme Court to automatically affirm a lower-court ruling, because a quorum is not available.
#5
Old 08-10-2013, 12:29 PM
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Originally Posted by friedo View Post
There have been several cases where recusals have forced the Supreme Court to automatically affirm a lower-court ruling, because a quorum is not available.
What would happen in a case where the Supreme Court had original jurisdiction? I would guess that a large number of recusals in such cases would be exceedingly unlikely, but it's not impossible.
#6
Old 08-10-2013, 12:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Donnerwetter View Post

What would happen if a legal case came up in which 6, maybe 7 or 8, maybe even all the judges of the United States Supreme Court had to recuse themselves?
I would think that the rule of necessity would apply.

"The principle that a judge will not be disqualified when the effect would be that no judge could hear the case is sometimes referred to as the 'rule of necessity'"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judicial_disqualification
#7
Old 08-10-2013, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by friedo View Post
There have been several cases where recusals have forced the Supreme Court to automatically affirm a lower-court ruling, because a quorum is not available.

Excellent citation.

To add, similar in nature when the original court in 1789 only had 6 justices, if there was a tie, the lower court decision stood.

Last edited by lawbuff; 08-10-2013 at 01:50 PM.
#8
Old 08-10-2013, 06:09 PM
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Certain antitrust cases can be referred to a court of appeals. Under 15 USC 29, some cases could be appealed directly to the Supreme Court. in 1944, Congress saw that the Alcoa case, which had been in trial for over four years, was headed for multiple recusals at the Supreme Court. It added a provision permitting the Supreme Court to refer a case to a court of appeals for final decision. Indeed, in United States v. Alcoa, six justices recused themselves, and they sent the case to the Second Circuit for decision.
#9
Old 08-11-2013, 12:59 PM
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Another excellent citation Tom.
#10
Old 08-11-2013, 01:09 PM
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IIRC, the number of Supreme Court justices isn't specified by law. In such a case where too many justices recused themselves to constitute a quorum, could the president opt to appoint a number of justices specifically to hear that case, with the understanding that they'd resign after the ruling?
#11
Old 08-11-2013, 01:14 PM
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The law sets the # at 9.

Last edited by lawbuff; 08-11-2013 at 01:15 PM.
#12
Old 08-11-2013, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Smapti View Post
IIRC, the number of Supreme Court justices isn't specified by law. In such a case where too many justices recused themselves to constitute a quorum, could the president opt to appoint a number of justices specifically to hear that case, with the understanding that they'd resign after the ruling?
The number is set by statute:

Quote:
Originally Posted by 28 USC § 1
The Supreme Court of the United States shall consist of a Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices, any six of whom shall constitute a quorum.
In order to appoint more justices, you'd need the cooperation of Congress.
#13
Old 08-11-2013, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by friedo View Post
In order to appoint more justices, you'd need the cooperation of Congress.
Yeah, like FDR tried to do.
#14
Old 08-11-2013, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by lawbuff View Post
Yeah, like FDR tried to do.
Needless to say, no President has tried that stunt since then.
#15
Old 08-11-2013, 09:48 PM
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Originally Posted by friedo View Post
Needless to say, no President has tried that stunt since then.
Well of course they haven't. Not after Congress gave FDR polio as a punishment for trying that move!

Last edited by akennett; 08-11-2013 at 09:48 PM.
#16
Old 08-13-2013, 08:15 AM
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Originally Posted by akennett View Post
Well of course they haven't. Not after Congress gave FDR polio as a punishment for trying that move!
Don't be silly. Everyone knows that FDR developed polio as a secret weapon in the Hobo Wars.
#17
Old 08-13-2013, 09:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by friedo View Post
They can't. The federal Constitution is very clear that the SCOTUS consists of those justices appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

There have been several cases where recusals have forced the Supreme Court to automatically affirm a lower-court ruling, because a quorum is not available.
This brings up an interesting question. Say there was some case, where it was obvious to the justices involved that the split would be 5-4 to overturn. (Let's ignore how 'obvious' that may be). Is there anything preventing the 4 minority justices from recusing themselves to force an automatic affirmation?
#18
Old 08-13-2013, 09:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yellowjacketcoder View Post
This brings up an interesting question. Say there was some case, where it was obvious to the justices involved that the split would be 5-4 to overturn. (Let's ignore how 'obvious' that may be). Is there anything preventing the 4 minority justices from recusing themselves to force an automatic affirmation?
Here is an excellent piece on when and why a SC Justice should recuse themselves, citing;

http://law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/28/455


http://afj.org/connect-with-the-...l-afj-memo.pdf

If impropriety is found, an Impeachment may take place?
#19
Old 08-13-2013, 09:44 AM
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So if you murder a Supreme Court Justice in DC, then there's no chance of an appeal to the highest court?
#20
Old 08-13-2013, 09:47 AM
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Wha?
#21
Old 08-13-2013, 09:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darth Panda View Post
So if you murder a Supreme Court Justice in DC, then there's no chance of an appeal to the highest court?
If a Petition for Certiorari were filed after conviction after the court of appeals heard it, the SC could simply REFUSE to grant to hear it.
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