Submitted: September 20, 2014
The Honorable Mary M. Johnston, Judge
Defendant William Sean Dahl has filed a motion requesting that Judge Mary M. Johnston recuse herself from Dahl's case. In support of his motion, Dahl asserts that (1) Judge Johnston is the Judge of Record in Dahl's ongoing violation of probation case; (2) Dahl has filed a civil lawsuit in United States District Court naming Judge Johnston as the lead defendant; and (3) Judge Johnston sentenced Dahl to twenty-three years of incarceration in 2006.
The Court recognizes that there are certain circumstances which require judges to disqualify themselves. "A judge should disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned."However, a judge has a duty not to recuse or disqualify "in the absence of a bona fide disqualifying condition, as defined in [Delaware Judges' Code of Judicial Conduct] Rule 2.11, such that the judge is not genuinely convinced of the need for recusal or disqualification."
By filing a civil lawsuit in United States District Court against the judge in this matter, Dahl asserts that he has created a conflict of interest warranting recusal or disqualification. "The mere fact that a judge is an adverse party in another proceeding will not, by itself, result in automatic disqualification." The Court must consider the policy reasons for and against disqualification when a litigant initiates a separate suit against a judge. Requiring disqualification, regardless of the circumstances, would permit litigants to avoid certain judges and would severely hamper the orderly administration of justice.
Prior Criminal Proceedings
Dahl also cites his ongoing violation of probation case and former sentencing with Judge Johnston as conflicts of interest. On April 4, 2006, Dahl was convicted of Loitering by a Sex Offender within 550 Feet of a School in violation of 11 Del. C. § 1112(a)(2). On July 28, 2006, Judge Johnston sentenced Dahl to: (1) 3 years at Level V for the loitering charge; (2) 17 years at Level V as an habitual offender; and (3) 8 years at Level V, suspended after 3 years for 8 months at Level IV, followed by 8 years at Level III, for violating probation.
On May 15, 2007, the Delaware Supreme Court overturned Dahl's loitering conviction. After finding Dahl's other arguments to be without merit, the Supreme Court reversed on the narrow technicality that the dance academy was not a "school" as that term has been defined by the General Assembly.
On June 19, 2007, the Superior Court on remand entered a judgment of acquittal on the loitering charge. The Superior Court did not modify the violation of probation sentence.
Postconviction Relief Motion
On February 5, 2008, Dahl filed a pro se motion for postconviction relief alleging: (i) abuse of discretion; (ii) excessive sentencing; and (iii) ineffective assistance of counsel.
In the Rule 61 Motion, Dahl argued that "since he was acquitted of the predicate charge to which the violation of probation attached, then the violation should have been negated as well." Dahl claimed no evidence was offered at trial demonstrating Dahl violated probation. Dahl believed the Court committed an ...