Judge's delayed recusal gets case tossed for a fresh start

McClatchy Washington BureauFebruary 11, 2014 

A fresh start has been ordered for a case before the U.S.. Court of Federal Claims, following questions about a judge's delayed recusal.

The judge in question, Judge Susan G. Braden, had issued several substantive rulings that in part went against the interests of the firm Demodulation, Inc. The New Jersey based firm claims the federal government infringed on patents and, in sum, stole its intellectual property.

Then, several weeks after a July 2013 ruling in the case, Judge Braden declared that she would recuse herself pursuant to Canon 3(D) of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges as well as a federal statute that states judges should disqualify themselves when their "impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

This centered around a potential fact witness in the Demodulation case, Clarence "Bud" Albright. Albright was a former undersecretary in the Energy Department.

In her August 2013 recusal statement, the judge stated that "I seem to recall that I came to know Bud Albright" between 1995 and 2000, when she was outside general counsel for an Alabama-based company and Albright was involved in Alabama politics.

The recusal came more than two years after the April 2011 initial filing of the claim.

"Nothing in the limited facts available to the Court suggests that Judge Braden’s association with Mr. Albright influenced her rulings in the two substantive orders that she issued prior to disqualification," Judge Thomas Wheeler stated in the claims court's Feb. 10 ruling.

At the same time, Judge Wheeler observed that "if the orders of the now-recused judge were allowed to stand, Plaintiff could one day wonder whether the outcome of the case was influenced by a judge who later recused herself from the case."

The "safest course," Judge Wheeler reasoned, is to start the case over with a "clean slate."

Demodulation is represented by Benjamin D. Light, based in New Jersey.



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