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United States v. Quintanilla

56 M.J. 37 (2001)

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United States v. Quintanilla

United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces

56 M.J. 37 (2001)

Facts

Army Staff Sergeant Guillermo Quintanilla (defendant) faced charges in a general court-martial. During the proceedings, the military judge confronted a witness outside of the court about the witness’s availability, using profanity. The witness complained about the judge’s behavior, and the judge met ex parte with the case’s trial counsel, i.e., the prosecutor (plaintiff), about handling the confrontation and complaint. During later courtroom proceedings, the judge disclosed some information about the confrontation, and Quintanilla proposed a stipulation about it. The judge admitted that the confrontation had become relevant to the case issues and then acted as a witness by providing factual information for the parties’ stipulation. However, the judge never provided a full, coherent disclosure of the confrontation events on the record. The judge also never disclosed anything about his ex parte communication with the trial counsel. The trial counsel moved to disqualify the judge from serving in the case, but the judge denied the motion. Quintanilla was convicted and appealed. On appeal, Quintanilla learned about the ex parte communication between the judge and trial counsel about the confrontation. Quintanilla argued that the judge should have recused himself for apparent or actual bias and that Quintanilla had been prejudiced by the judge’s failure to disqualify himself.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Effron, J.)

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