Judge’s Gay Marriage Recusal Explained

Judge’s Gay Marriage Recusal Explained

The daughter of Associate Judge Albert M. Rosenblatt, one of seven judges on New York’s highest court, confirmed that her father recused himself from four gay marriage cases the court will hear later this month because of her work on gay marriage cases in other states.

“My father recused himself believing it to be the proper ethical thing to do considering that I and my firm, Irell and Manella, have been actively working in parallel litigation, including the New Jersey case… and similar cases in Washington and California,” Elizabeth L. Rosenblatt, an attorney at that Los Angeles-based firm, wrote in a May 12 email to Gay City News.

Rosenblatt and her firm have authored friend-of-the-court briefs in gay marriage cases in those states.

Lambda Legal, the gay public-interest law firm, will argue one of the four cases before the Court of Appeals on May 31 and it is also the leading participant in the marriage cases in New Jersey, Washington, and California. Similarly, the American Civil Liberties Union will argue one of the New York cases and is participating in the California lawsuit.

Rosenblatt was appointed to the court in 1998 by Governor George E. Pataki. His first judgeship came in 1976. Now 70, he will resign from the court at the end of this year.

Experts in legal ethics said that his daughter’s work on gay marriage cases in other states would not require the judge to recuse himself. The judge may be questioning his ability to rule impartially or he may want to assure that the court’s decision, which is sure to be controversial no matter how the case is resolved, cannot be questioned.

“There are two purposes to the recusal requirement,” said Monroe H. Freedman, a professor at Hofstra University’s School of Law. “One is a matter of fairness and indeed the appearance of fairness to the parties. In addition, there is a concern with the administration of justice and the appearance to the public about the administration of justice.”