The team of attorneys representing accused Iranian sanctions violator, Reza Zarrab, have filed a motion to recuse the District Judge assigned to the case, and for that reason, the scheduled hearing upon pending motions to dismiss, and to suppress evidence, has been cancelled.
At Zarrab's arraignment, the Court disclosed that it had participated in a legal conference in Istanbul, which was sponsored by a prominent Turkish law firm, some of whose partners were arrested, after the subsequent failed coup in the country, and thereafter accused of terrorism.
Additionally, the Court's comments, during the conference, whose theme was the role of an independent and effective judiciary, and the focus was the Rule of Law in Turkey, counsel pointedly argued, indicated that the Court saw the exoneration of Zarrab, from major corruption charges in Turkey, as having resulted from political actions of the Turkish government, and not from application of the rule of law.
Given that allegations, that Zarrab bribed government officials, to obtain his freedom in Turkey, were the 800 pound elephant in the room at the conference, and that several speakers there commented upon the case, and that press reports, attributed to the Court, critical of the handling of the Zarrab case, by the Turkish authorities, counsel now seeks his recusal. The legal argument presented appears to have merit, and many judges more or less routinely remove themselves from such cases, when facing recusal motions, as a matter of practice.
Federal law provides that a judge shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned. The point is that he does not have to exhibit actual bias, but he must recuse himself, whenever an objective observer might conclude that his impartiality might be questioned, regardless of whether or not he is actually not impartial. The mere appearance of impropriety is to be avoided. The briefing schedule on the motion has been set.
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