Q: Can a judge in Arkansas reside over 2 cases. One is a criminal and the other is a dhs case.
The judge terminated my parental rights and in my other case would not grant a direct verdict in my favor after the state failed to provide evidence.
A: Yes. Generally, a judge can preside over two cases, where one is criminal and the other DHS.
Some excerpts from a 2015 Arkansas Court of Appeals opinion, regarding a judge residing over a criminal and dependency-neglect case involving the same adult and child, show that the bar for challenging this is high:
A judge has a duty to hear a case unless there is a valid reason to disqualify. Perroni v. State, 358 Ark. 17, 186 S.W.3d 206 (2004). Moreover, a judge is presumed to be impartial, and the party seeking recusal “bears a substantial burden in proving otherwise.” Duty v. State, 45 Ark. App. 1, 5, 871 S.W.2d 400, 402 (1994); see also Porter v. Ark. Dep’t of Health & Human Servs., 374 Ark. 177, 191, 286 S.W.3d 445, 451 (2003). A judge’s recusal is discretionary, and her decision will not be reversed absent a showing of abuse of discretion. Duty v. State, 45 Ark. App. 1, 871 S.W.2d 400 (1994). Finally, a judge’s improper failure to recuse herself does not result in reversible error unless there is a showing of prejudice from the failure to recuse. Id.
First, we have held that the language in Rule 2.11(A)(1), referring to a judge’s “personal knowledge eof the facts,” does not preclude participation of a judge who obtained that knowledge through previous judicial participation. Duty, 45 Ark. App. at 6, 871 S.W.2d at 403. “The fact that a judge may have an opinion concerning a case does not dictate that a recusal is required.” Id., 871 S.W.2d at 403 (citing Rush v. Wallace, 23 Ark. App 61, 742 S.W.2d 952 (1988)). In that instance, whether recusal is required lies within the judge’s conscience. Id. Appellant presents neither argument nor evidence that the judge in this case had any personal knowledge about the case other than the knowledge that she acquired acting as a judge in the dependency-neglect matter.
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