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Piracy and Judges

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From today's decision of the Ninth Circuit in Institute of Cetacean Research v. Sea Shepherd Cons. Soc., No. 12-35266:

You don't need a peg leg or an eye patch. When you ram ships; hurl glass containers of acid; drag metal-reinforced ropes in the water to damage propellers and rudders; launch smoke bombs and flares with hooks; and point high-powered lasers at other ships, you are, without a doubt, a pirate, no matter how high-minded you believe your purpose to be.
Regular readers of Ninth Circuit opinions will have no difficulty guessing the author.  The self-high-minded folks are anti-whaling activists who disagree with international law on whaling and therefore deem themselves entitled to forcibly enforce their own view of the law.  Surprisingly, they actually prevailed in the district court, leading to the suspicion the judge shares their views on whaling and allowed those views to influence his legal judgment.  But the Ninth Circuit has its own surprise for the district court judge:

The district judge's numerous, serious and obvious errors identified in our opinion raise doubts as to whether he will be perceived as impartial in presiding over this high-profile case. The appearance of justice would be served if the case were transferred to another district judge, drawn at random, and we so order in accordance with the standing orders of the Western District of Washington.
If a judge regularly makes "numerous, serious and obvious errors" in a particular class of cases, and if there is good reason to believe that his strong views against the underlying law are the reason, should he be disqualified from cases of that class?  Would the Ninth Circuit be willing to apply that rule to its own judges?

For more on the definition of "piracy," there are multiple posts over at Volokh Conspiracy.

1 Comment

// "The district judge's numerous, serious and obvious errors
identified in our opinion..." \\
K. Scheidegger,
Are there any meaningful punishments or restrictions for federal judges?
[As impeachment appears with the frequency of Halley's Comet.]

In other arenas of endeavour, incompetence is treated with
sacking, pay remediation, professional sanction, &ct., &ct.
? ?

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