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Hayward v. Superior Court Summary


Hayward v. Superior Court 

Opinion published on August 3, 2016


Factual Background

The court’s opinion in Hayward v. Superior Court concerned a private judge’s disqualification.  After the private judge had served for about two years, Wife discovered the judge had not disclosed in writing or on the record professional relationships she had with other lawyers in the proceeding.  Cannon 6D(5)(a) provided that in “all proceedings” temporary judges must disclose any “personal or professional relationships known to the temporary judge that he or she or his or her law firm has had with a party, lawyer, or law firm in the current proceeding, even though the temporary judge concludes that there is no actual basis for disqualification.”  The private judge failed to abide by that cannon when she failed to disclose that she and counsel had served as private judges in each other’s cases, i.e., that she or her law firm had professional relationships with lawyers in the proceeding before her.  Wife filed a disqualification motion against the private which she failed to respond to in accordance with statutory procedure.  The private judge was held to have consented to her disqualification and was removed.  The case was reassigned.

Later, Wife asked the reassigned court to declare void and vacate all orders issued by the private judge arguing that the orders of a disqualified judge are void and the disqualification occurs when the facts creating disqualification arise, not when the disqualification is established.  The issue of disqualification was brought before the court of appeal as a writ petition.

The Court of Appeal’s Decision on the Petition

The court of appeal held that all the orders issued by the private judge were void and were required to be vacated regardless of whether they were legally correct.  The facts creating disqualification, which were taken as true based on the private judge’s failure to respond to the statement of disqualification that she was biased, occurred prior to all of the private judge’s rulings.  Preserving the orders the judge made prior to disqualification would have undermined the purpose of the ethical rules with regard to disqualification

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