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No Judicial Recusal for Claimed Xenophobic Statements

Tennessee case summary on judicial recusal.

Benjamin McCurry et al., v. Agness McCurry

Overlooking Disney Springs

In 2022, the wife in this Washington County, Tennessee, had previously appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals with what that court called a frivolous appeal.   In early 2023, she was back in that court.  This time, she argued that the trial judge, Senior Judge Thomas J. Wright, should have recused himself.  But she was off to a bad start even before the appeals court looked at the merits of her case.  The appeals court first noted that in her appeal, she had made several statements showing “disrespect or contempt” for both the trial court and the appellate court.  It noted that normally, this would result in the appeal getting thrown out with no further consideration.  But since the issue of an impartial judge is so important, the appeals court reluctantly agreed to proceed, but only after striking the offensive argument.  In fact, it went so far as to seal the petition so that the public would not have access to the document.  But it made clear that such language would not be tolerated in the future.

The appeals court also had to address another procedural issue.  The wife had submitted along with her an appeal a flash drive, which she said contained a recording of the trial court proceedings.  The trial court had noted that she had surreptitiously used her phone to record the proceedings.  Since the flash drive had not been admitted into evidence, and since it did not constitute a transcript, the appeals court held that it was not to be considered.

The wife alleged that Judge Wright should have been recused because he allegedly incarcerated her due to her immigration status, and that he made “xenophobic statements” about her status.  But after reviewing the record, the appeals court concluded that these allegations were false.  She had been put in jail for contempt, and not for her immigration status.  Both the trial court and the appeals court noted that she had repeatedly ignored requests and orders, such as to stop talking when it wasn’t her turn.  The appeals court concluded that her 24 hours in jail was an appropriate sanction for what it called an obstruction of the administration of justice.

The wife also argued that she was deprived of Due Process, but the trial court and appellate court agreed that she was actually provided with a heightened level of Due Process.  Both the trial court and the appellate court agreed that none of the lower court’s actions had anything to do with her national origin or immigration status.

The wife apparently had a federal case pending against the Tennessee courts.  Both parties had been ordered to bring documents related to that lawsuit, since they might be relevant to the husband’s argument that she was delusional.

No.E2023-00297-COA-T10B-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 22, 2023).

See original opinion for exact language.  Legal citations omitted.

To learn more, see The Tennessee Divorce Process: How Divorces Work Start to Finish.