Disqualifications for Interest of Lower Federal Court Judges: 28 U.S.C. § 455

Disqualification of a judge occurs when he is ineligible by law to sit in a particular case. At the Supreme Court level, disqualification is a personal decision of the individual justice, who seldom records the reasons for his decision. Thus, there is little material on the Court’s disqualification practices that can be subjected to legal analysis. However, substantial case law on disqualification has developed in the lower federal courts, where the decision of a trial judge to sit or step down in a case may appear in the trial record and is subject to review by a court of appeals. In addition, disqualifications in the lower courts may have many important ramifications for the parties, the judicial system, and the individual judges. This Comment will discuss the laws and doctrines that relate to the disqualification of federal judges because they have, or appear to have, an interest in the case before them.