I Want a New Family Court Judge
I don’t think my assigned judge is being fair. What are my rights?
Can I Get a New Family Court Judge Transcript
Can I get a new family court judge? This is a question that comes up a lot. In North Carolina, we have a system where in each family one judge is assigned to the case. They call it the “One Judge, One Family Rule” and it’s something that is in courtrooms all across the state. And so the judge that you’re assigned from the beginning is the judge that you keep as you go through the whole process.
Now, when that becomes a problem is when you go to court, and in these cases you usually go to court many times, and you start to feel like the judge is out to get you. You know, you feel like things aren’t fair, that there’s a bias against you. You might be in court on a preliminary motion and the judge rules against you, and then it happens again, and then it happens again, and then it happens again, and you’re starting to think “There’s no way this is going to turn out well with this judge. We need somebody new.
So the question becomes “Can we get this judge disqualified so that we can get a new one?” Generally speaking, you’re not going to get a new judge. The reality is that in a one family, one judge system, you’re probably stuck with the judge that was initially assigned to your case, even if you feel like the rulings are going against you.
To be straightforward with you, in all of these cases, somebody wins and somebody loses, and the person that loses often feels like the judge is biased against them. So, you know, it really becomes a question of “Are you losing because of some bias or are you losing because you just don’t have a strong case?” and more often than not, it’s because you have the weaker argument.
Now, that’s not to say that a judge can’t be disqualified. If a judge has a financial interest in the case, for instance, well, then a judge can be disqualified. If the judge has a personal relationship with one of the parties, well then, of course, the judge can be disqualified, but you need to know that there’s a very, very high standard here, and that judges are rarely going to be disqualified in these cases. I’ve only seen it happen in situations like where the judge was a partner of the lawyer in their law firm in the past. That sort of thing. You’re probably not going to be able to get your judge disqualified.
So, if things are going badly, if you feel like you’re losing and you’re not going to change judges, is all hope lost? Well, no. It’s not. I’ve watched clients turn things around for themselves. It’s not over even if you’ve had some bad initial rulings. Yes, you may be stuck with this judge, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a shot at getting things back on track.
So what can you do about that? Well, first of all, recognize that you’re being watched in that court room. Behave. No outbursts. Behave in a respectful way. When you’re testifying, be well prepared, be professional, dress appropriately for the court room. Most importantly, listen to your lawyer’s advice. Do what you’re told. That will help to turn that judge’s unfavorable opinion around and get you to a place where you feel like things are headed in your direction. You’re not going to change judges in all likelihood, but that doesn’t mean that you’re going to end up with a bad result.