SW Legal studies in Business

Obvious Bias by Judge Means New Trial

Mississippi high court tossed out the verdict by a judge in a case where the judge was shown to be very hostile to one party in the case, whom he ruled against. Such hostility meant there could not be a fair trial, a violation of federal and state due process. There would be a new trial before a different judge.

Topic Court Procedure
Key Words

Judge; Behavior; Bias

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Brian Bermudez and Amanda Schmidt, who lived in Mississippi, shared custody of their minor son after their divorce. Schmidt suspected Bermudez of abusing the child, so she refused to let him visit. Schmidt decided to move to Colorado. Bermudez then filed a petition requesting that Schmidt be held in contempt of court for denial of visitation. During the hearing, the judge said that he believed that Schmidt and her new husband were lying. He stated to Schmidt: “you committed perjury” and, if done again, “you are going to leave this courtroom in handcuffs,” and “you are playing games with this court,” and “you have diarrhea of the mouth,” and other such comments. The judge awarded custody of the child to Bermudez. Schmidt appealed. The appeals court affirmed. Schmidt appealed.


Reversed and remanded. The judge insulted and badgered Schmidt repeatedly. He would cut her off before she finished answering his questions. He insulted the professionals who had been consulted on the matter. He threatened to have Schmidt and an expert witness arrested. The federal and state constitutions require a fair, impartial tribunal. The judge’s combative, antagonistic, discourteous, and adversarial conduct deprived Schmidt of a fair trial on the custody petition. The judge was not impartial, so did not provide substantial justice in the case. There will be a new trial before a new judge.


Schmidt v. Bermudez, ---So.2d--- (2009 WL 541337, Sup. Ct., Miss., 2009)

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