Hinds County Circuit Judge Swan Yerger retired effective the end of 2011. Former Jackson City Councilman Jeff Weill was elected to replace Judge Yerger and inherited his docket.
On January 4, 2011–-the day of Judge Weill’s investiture—Eaton Corporation moved to have Judge Weill recuse himself from the Eaton v. Frisby case. Eaton filed its motion under seal even though Judge Yerger lifted the seal in the case. Frisby did not file its response under seal. Here is Frisby’s response. [Here is page 5, which was not in my initial posting.]
According to Frisby’s response, Eaton contends that no judge in Hinds County can be fair due to Judge Yerger’s finding that Eaton used Ed Peters to improperly influence Judge Bobby DeLaughter in the case.
Frisby responds that there is no legal or factual basis for recusal of Judge Weill. Frisby also contends that Eaton’s motion constitutes improper judge shopping.
Eaton’s request to recuse Judge Weill is bizarre. Judge Weill is conservative and is expected to be a detail oriented trial judge. That would seem to be the type of judge who you would want on the case if it’s your position that the last judge got it wrong.
Eaton, on the other hand, wants the judge behind door number 2.
Should Judge Weill recuse himself, Eaton has no idea whether it will like the judge who the Supreme Court assigns to the case. I do not know exactly how that system works, but it appears random. That means that the Supreme Court could assign any current Mississippi Circuit Judge. Although it is more likely that it would be one from an area surrounding Jackson, that is no guarantee.
The uncertainty about what judge might be assigned to the case is what makes Eaton’s request bizarre. How do you move to recuse a new judge who is a blank slate, but who no one has any real criticism of, in order to get a random draw that could be much worse? A lot of people will probably question that strategy if Judge Weill grants Eaton’s motion and Eaton draws a judge who is perceived to be bad for Eaton in the case.
But that is probably a moot point since it appears unlikely that Judge Weill will grant Eaton’s motion.