Judge in Catholic bankruptcy recuses over church donations
Legal Topics | 2023/04/30 05:03
A federal judge overseeing the New Orleans Roman Catholic bankruptcy recused himself in a late-night reversal that came a week after an Associated Press report showed he donated tens of thousands of dollars to the archdiocese and consistently ruled in favor of the church in the case involving nearly 500 clergy sex abuse victims.

U.S. District Judge Greg Guidry initially announced hours after the AP report that he would stay on the case, citing the opinion of fellow federal judges that no “reasonable person” could question his impartiality. But amid mounting pressure and persistent questions, he changed course late Friday in a terse, one-page filing.

“I have decided to recuse myself from this matter in order to avoid any possible appearance of personal bias or prejudice,” Guidry wrote. The 62-year-old jurist has overseen the 3-year-old bankruptcy in an appellate role, and his recusal is likely to throw the case into disarray and trigger new hearings and appeals of every consequential ruling he’s made.

But legal experts say it was the only action to take under the circumstances, citing federal law that calls on judges to step aside in any proceeding in which their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

“This was a clear and blatant conflict that existed for some time,” said Joel Friedman, a longtime legal analyst in New Orleans who is now a law professor at Arizona State University. “It creates the exact problem the rules are designed to avoid, the impression to the public that he’s not an impartial decisionmaker.”

Guidry’s recusal underscores how tightly woven the church is in the city’s power structure, a coziness perhaps best exemplified when executives of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints secretly advised the archdiocese on public relations messaging at the height of its clergy abuse crisis.


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