Liljeberg v. Health Services Acquisition Corporation

PETITIONER: Liljeberg
RESPONDENT: Health Services Acquisition Corporation
LOCATION: Dickinson School District Superintendent's Office

DOCKET NO.: 86-957
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 486 US 847 (1988)
ARGUED: Dec 09, 1987
DECIDED: Jun 17, 1988
REARGUED: Apr 25, 1988

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Liljeberg v. Health Services Acquisition Corporation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 09, 1987 in Liljeberg v. Health Services Acquisition Corporation
Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - April 25, 1988 in Liljeberg v. Health Services Acquisition Corporation

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 17, 1988 in Liljeberg v. Health Services Acquisition Corporation

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in 86-957, Liljeberg against Health Services Acquisition Corporation will be announced by Justice Stevens.

John Paul Stevens:

This case comes to us on writ of certiorari from the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and requires that we consider Section 455 of the Judicial Code, which deals with the disqualification of federal judges.

Subsection (a) of that section requires that a judge disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.

Applying this standard, we conclude today, as did the Court of Appeals, that a violation of 455(a) is established if a reasonable person, knowing the relevant facts would expect that the presiding judge knew of circumstances creating an appearance of partiality regardless of whether or not the judge was actually conscious of the circumstances.

The relevant inquiry under subsection (a) is not whether or not the judge was actually biased but whether he or she appeared biased.

We also agree with the Court of Appeals that on the facts of this case, it was appropriate to vacate the judgment of the District Court.

Accordingly, where reason spelled out in an opinion we filed with the clerk, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.

The Chief Justice has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice White and Justice Scalia joined and Justice O'Connor has filed a separate dissenting opinion.