Jean-Charles v. Perlitz
A District Court judge may be required to recuse when an objective, disinterested observer, fully informed of the underlying facts, would entertain significant doubt that justice would be accomplished, absent recusal. The plaintiffs' complaint alleged that the defendant, Douglas Perlitz, sexually abused them when he worked in Haiti under the auspices of Fairfield University, which is a Jesuit institution. The plaintiffs moved to recuse District Judge Robert Chatigny from ruling on their case, because he graduated from another Jesuit institution, Georgetown University Law Center, and is an active alumnus who contributes to the school, participates as a judge in the university's moot court programs and hires its law clerks. The plaintiffs also pointed out that Jeffrey von Arx, the president of defendant Fairfield University, previously worked at Georgetown University and questioned whether Judge Chatigny would be capable of remaining unbiased and fairly issuing court rulings against Fairfield University, if necessary. 28 United States Code §455(a) provides, "Any justice, judge or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned." Disqualification is required, pursuant to U.S. v. Carlton, a 2008 decision of the 2nd Circuit, when "an objective, disinterested observer fully informed of the underlying facts [would] entertain significant doubt that justice would be done absent recusal." Judge Chatigny denied the plaintiffs' motion to recuse. "Under the objective standard as it has been applied in these analogous cases," wrote Judge Chatigny, "my ties to Georgetown would not cause a disinterested observer fully informed of the underlying facts to have a significant doubt about my ability to be impartial in this litigation." Judge Chatigny also rejected the plaintiffs' claims that his wife's work as a teacher at a private secondary school that supports disadvantaged children in the developing world provides a basis for recusal.