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Dodson v. Singing River Hosp. Sys., et al.


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Docket Number: 2001-CA-00655-SCT
Linked Case(s): 2001-CA-00655-SCT

Supreme Court: Opinion Link
Opinion Date: 03-06-2003
Opinion Author: Waller, J.
Holding: Reversed and Remanded

Additional Case Information: Topic: Medical malpractice - Recusal of judge - Burden of proof
Judge(s) Concurring: Pittman, C.J., Smith, P.J., Cobb and Carlson, JJ.
Non Participating Judge(s): Graves, J.
Dissenting Author : McRae, P.J., and Easley, J.
Concurs in Result Only: Diaz, J.
Procedural History: Bench Trial
Nature of the Case: CIVIL - MEDICAL MALPRACTICE

Trial Court: Date of Trial Judgment: 04-09-2001
Appealed from: Jackson County Circuit Court
Judge: Dale Harkey
Disposition: Entered a judgment for the Appellees.
Case Number: CI-990027(3)

Note: Motion to Correct and/or Modify Opinion Pursuant to M.R.A.P. 40 filed by Judge Dale Harkey is granted. See Opinion of this Court handed down this date.

  Party Name: Attorney Name:  
Appellant: Dottie P. Dodson
ROBERT W. SMITH
 

Appellee: Singing River Hospital System and Singing River Hospital JOHN G. CORLEW JOSEPH J. STROBLE BRETT K. WILLIAMS ROY C. WILLIAMS  

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Topic: Medical malpractice - Recusal of judge - Burden of proof

Summary of the Facts: This opinion is substituted for the prior opinion. Dottie Dodson sued Singing River Hospital System and Singing River Hospital for injuries she allegedly sustained after a surgery. The court held in favor of Singing River. Dodson appeals.

Summary of Opinion Analysis: Dodson argues that the judge should have recused himself because the law firm of Colingo, Williams, Heidelberg, Steinberger & McElhaney, counsel for Singing River, represented the judge when he was serving as executor of his mother's estate and because one of the firm’s attorneys served as campaign treasurer of the judge’s campaign committee. A judge should disqualify himself in a proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned. The standard for recusal is a reasonable person knowing all the circumstances. The presumption that judges are qualified and unbiased is overcome when the evidence produces a reasonable doubt as to the judge's impartiality. Some cases have misapplied a "beyond a reasonable doubt" burden but the proper standard is that the evidence must produce a reasonable doubt. A reasonable person knowing all the circumstances in this case would have a reasonable doubt regarding the judge’s impartiality. One of the partners at Colingo Williams served as treasurer in the judge’s election campaign. Another Colingo Williams lawyer served as attorney of record in the estate proceedings of the judge’s mother for which the judge was charged nothing. In fact, the judge recused himself in another case involving Colingo Williams when it was disclosed about the partner serving as his campaign treasurer.


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