Cal. Litig. 2018, Volume 31, Number 1

Where External Reality Collides with Trial: Judicial Disqualification Lessons from the Harry Bridges Cold War Trials

By Peter Afrasiabi

The larger ecosystem that envelops a trial is often rancorous and emotional. From terrorism to police-shooting trials, the participants all have a heightened social and political sense of the case and where it stands in the broader climate. Considering this larger context is important today with the ongoing social-activist protests and anti-Trump movements, all of which have funneled into extensive litigation. For trial participants, though, how the emotions tied to those movements are transported into the courtroom is critical to consider.

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This article addresses judicial disqualification and some ethical implications for lawyers and judges by examining one aspect of the trial record of the longest civil deportation battle in American history—the 20-year saga of four serial deportation trials brought against labor leader Harry Bridges alleging he was a Communist Party member. Modern disqualification examples involving race are addressed as a contemporary bookend.

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