Suppose a litigant (deliberately) insults the judge

Suppose a litigant says (either in or outside of court) a bunch of extremely insulting things about the judge in the case, such that any normal person would feel highly aggrieved. Can they then turn around and claim that going forward the judge will be biased against them on this account, and that they should be assigned another judge? Or is the mere fact that the ostensible bias resulted from the litigant’s own actions render it moot?

If it still counts, then suppose a litigant believed the judge was already biased against them for reasons which were not likely to suffice (or had already been deemed insufficient) for a recusal, they could try the this gambit. Presumably they would be on the hook for some consequences (contempt of court?) but they might consider it worthwhile if it got them to a new judge. (Hopefully a judge who strongly disliked the first judge :slight_smile: )

You might get a different judge assigned to your contempt case, but you’d be stuck with the original judge for your original case. If a judge wanted to recuse after your conduct, they could, but generally they don’t reward this behavior by allowing you to switch judges by this tactic. (and, even if it worked, courthouses are tight places, and your new judge would probably treat you worse than the first one)

Not only would a judge not be obligated to recuse themselves over a conflict purely created by the litigant’s behavior, they would probably not want to, either. Even if they weren’t spiteful about the insulting behavior, they would not want to facilitate this as a ‘legal’ strategy lest it become a common occurrence. And as @Procrustus notes, even if you did manage to get a recusal or transfer, the new judge will be quite aware of the circumstances and extremely circumspect about your behavior going forward to the point of shutting down anything that looks like another attempt to interfere with the court proceedings in some nefarious fashion.

Also, contempt proceedings are within the purview of the presiding court, i.e. if you insult the judge or interfere with proceedings, they can slap you with a contempt order (a restriction, fine, or even potentially indefinite jail time), and to contest it you have to take it to an appellate court to stay or reverse the order. Since a judge has a wide latitude to issue a contempt of court order you would really have to prove that it was done in malice or with a lack of basis.

“Don’t talk back to the judge. Quit while you’re ahead…or quit while you’re slightly behind.”


Family story. My dad laughed at judge for fining him $100 for running a floating crap game in his hometown in west Texas back in the 50s. Told him he had $100 in his ass pocket. The judge then asked him if he had 30 days in his ass pocket and they took him away. Don’t ever talk back to a judge was the moral of this story.

Reminds me of a story where a defendant muttered, “God dammit,” when he was sentenced.

Bang “That’ll be $20 for contempt of court.” (This is an old story)

The defendant pulled out his wallet and started rifling through it. “You don’t pay here – you pay the clerk on your way out.”

“I’m just checking if I can afford two more words, your Honor.”

In an analysis of the infamous case of a judge losing his cool with a vulgar defendant, Natalie Lawyer Chick said that this isn’t too rare. She said that they’re trying to get a reaction from the judge to drag out the process, or are playing with the court because they’re bored. Note, the video is somewhat NSFW (lots of foul language).

In fact, I believe the Supreme Court has held that due process requires that a trial judge (except for summary contempt) refer the contempt proceeding to a different judge.

Just a correction to the above, not prolong the process, but to get a mistrial, an overturn on appeal, or get the judge recused. I’m not sure why I typed prolong the process.

Here’s another couple of examples of that not working well:

Bobby Seale, 1969. Sentenced to four years for Contempt.