Friday, October 07, 2011

Well, recuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse you!

Thus the MSSC to the Hon. Eddie Bowen, in its en banc order issued yesterday. (Thank you so much, Mississippi Supreme Court, for posting orders online now!)

This is the Judge Bowen who presided over an asbestos trial against Union Carbide and other defendants, and whose father turned out to've been not only tested for asbestosis, but to have settled an asbestos claim with Union Carbide. This after the court had "preemptively struck - for cause - all prospective jurors with family members [in the first degree] who had asbestos claims."

Given these facts, along with Judge Bowen's apparent reluctance to provide any information about his father, the MSSC held that the recusal standard had been met. We suspect it was the trial judge's evident reluctance to be forthcoming about his father that most impressed the Court; the order dwells on the fact that Judge Bowen (1) wouldn't even disclose his father's name, (2) wouldn't explain why, and (3) wouldn't allow sidebar conferences on the topic to be transcribed.

All this in a case where the jury has already awarded the plaintiffs $322 million. A new judge will have to handle the post-trial motions based only on the transcript and pleadings. Good luck with that, sir or madam, whosoever ye may be.

(The invaluable Philip Thomas had reported that Judge Bowen was appointed by Gov. Barbour after the passing of Judge Robert Evans. Apparently, Union Carbide didn't think that political fact was sufficient for it to wait on Judge Bowen's resolution of its post-trial motions.)

... Speaking of recusal, Justice Randolph self-recused from this matter last month:
The undersigned Justice has participated as defense counsel for numerous defendants in a multitude of asbestos cases both in-state and nationally, and in exercising his judicial discretion, has elected to recuse himself from any involvement in this matter.
We don't think that was by any means required, but any given judge or justice is the first, best authority on his or her own recusal. Justices Pierce and King also did not participate; the order was otherwise unanimous.

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