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Marsin v. Udall

Supreme Court of Arizona

February 3, 1955

Daniel J. MARSIN, Petitioner,
The Honorable Nicholas UDALL, Judge of the Superior Court of the State of Arizona, in and for the County of Maricopa, Respondent.

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[78 Ariz. 311] Flynn, Van Haren & Stewart and John J. Flynn, Phoenix, for petitioner.

Honorable Nicholas Udall, Phoenix, in pro. per., and Wm. P. Mahoney, Jr., County Atty. and Charles C. Stidham, Deputy County Atty., Phoenix, for respondent.

Jennings, Strouss, Salmon & Trask, Phoenix, amicus curiae.

WINDES, Justice.

The county attorney of Maricopa County filed an information charging Daniel J. Marsin, hereinafter designated petitioner, with the crime of kidnapping for ransom, a felony. The local rules of the superior court of Maricopa County provide for the selection of the trial judge from nine

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judges available to be made by an assignment judge. Among the duties of this assignment judge is the hearing of all preliminary motions, the conduct of all arraignments, setting the trial date for all cases and, shortly prior to the respective dates of trial, assigning such cases for trial before a particular judge. Following that procedure, in July, 1954, prior to petitioner's arraignment, his counsel filed a motion to quash the information, a motion to return and suppress, a motion for bill of particulars and a motion for production of documents and tangible evidence for inspection by the defendant. The Honorable Nicholas Udall, respondent herein, serving in the capacity of assignment judge, heard arguments and passed upon the foregoing [78 Ariz. 312] motion. The trial date was finally fixed for January 11, 1955. On January 8th, the Honorable R. C. Stanford, Jr., then acting as assignment judge, assigned the case for trial before respondent and on January 10th, petitioner filed an affidavit of bias and prejudice against respondent. Respondent refused to recognize the affidavit upon the ground that he had theretofore heard and passed upon the foregoing motions and the affidavit was, therefore, not timely made and that he was required to try the case. Petitioner seeks a writ of prohibition to prvent respondent from trying the case. We issued an alternative writ.

The right to a fair and impartial trial before a fair and impartial judge is a valuable substantive right originating in the common law and recognized by statute in both criminal and civil cases. Neither this court nor the superior court can by rule of procedure deprive a party of the opportunity to exercise this right. Courts cannot enact substantive law. A court is limited to passing rules which prescribe procedure for exercising the right. Any rule of court that operates to lessen or eliminate the right is of no legal force. It has even been held by the Supreme Court of the United States that under some circumstances a procedure that had such effect offended the due process clause of the Federal constitution. Tumey v. State of Ohio, 273 U.S. 510, 47 S.Ct. 437, 71 L.Ed. 749, 50 A.L.R. 1243. Of course, one may with knowledge of the facts, consent that his case be tried before a judge he thinks is biased and prejudiced. The privilege to challenge the judge's fairness carries with it the concomitant right to willingly submit to trial. He is not compelled to exercise the right but may waive it. Whether an affidavit of bias and prejudice is timely filed is dependent upon the law of waiver and before one can be said to have waived the right, he must first have had an opportunity to exercise it. A waiver is a voluntary relinquishing of a known right.

The court by procedural law can prescribe the conditions under which a party may be said to have consented that his case be tried before a particular judge, i. e., whether he has waived his right to challenge the fairness of the judge, provided it does not operate to deprive him of the right. To that end, this court passed Rule 251, Rules of Criminal Procedure, section 44-1204, A.C.A.1939, to the effect that one expecting to exercise this right of challenge must file his affidavit of bias and prejudice at least three days before the case is called for trial. The respondent ruled that petitioner under the circumstances was not bound by the threeday rule, section 44-1204, supra. In this he was correct since the petitioner did not know who the trial judge was to be in time to comply therewith and, therefore, had no prior oppotunity to challenge respondent's qualifications. A non-compliance with this rule cannot operate to prevent the affidavit of bias and prejudice [78 Ariz. 313] from being timely filed under such conditions.

The contention of respondent is that while petitioner was not barred from filing his affidavit by reason of the provisions of the three-day rule, section 44-1204, supra, his affidavit was untimely because of the law as pronounced by this court in Arizona Conference Corp. v. Barry, 72 Ariz. 74, 231 P.,2d 426. That case decided (1) that the affidavit of bias and prejudice filed therein was untimely for the reason that if a petitioner permits a judge to rule upon any litigated or contested matter whatever, either on a motion or plea of the

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party making the affidavit, he waives the right, and (2) that if a judge had been permitted to go this far, he could not even disqualify himself unless in fact he were disqualified. There is a distinction between being in fact disqualified and being disqualified by reason of the filing of the affidavit. In the latter instance, it is the affidavit that disqualifies irrespective of whether the judge in fact is biased. Conkling v. Crosby, 29 Ariz. 60, 239 P. 506.

The Barry case was a civil case but the principles of law by which we determine whether one had lost his right to a fair and impartial judge are, of coure, the same whether the case be civil or criminal. Consequently, if the reasoning of the Barry case is sound, respondent is correct in ruling that defendant, having permitted him to pass upon the preliminary motions, waived his right to file the disqualifying affidavit and that he, respondent, could not voluntarily relinquish the case unless in fact he was prejudiced against petitioner. Knowing respondent to be an honorable judicial official, we assume that he in fact had no prejudice and therefore, if he is to follow the Barry decision, he could not relinquish the case.

The Barry case ignored prior decisions of this court and adopted the rule of New Mexico. As we analyze the previous pronouncements of this court, it has been ruled that when evidence is taken, the right to challenge the judge on grounds of bias and prejudice is waived, if the evidence is to be used in the final determination of the case on its merits, Allan v. Allan, 21 Ariz. 70, 185 P. 539; when judgment is rendered on the pleadings thereby rendering a trial unnecessary, Mosher v. Wayland, 62 Ariz. 498, 158 P.2d 654; or when the trial has commenced to the extent of calling prospective jurors into the box for the purpose of selection, Sam v. State, 33 Ariz. 383, 265 P. 609. This court, prior to the Barry decision, was also committed to the proposition that when the court had heard a contested motion and had made an order requiring the defendant to pay costs, the right to disqualify the judge was not waived and was timely made after the court's decision. Stephens v. Stephens, 17 Ariz. 306, 152 P. 164, 166. Therein, this court said:

'But two or three orders had been entered by the court, one of which required the appellant to pay the costs [78 Ariz. 314] of appellee's witnesses up the date of the last continuance. Appellee suggests that it was this order mulcting appellant for costs that prompted the latter to make his application for a change, and it is urged that an adverse ruling of that kind ought not to be allowed as a pretext or excuse for an affidavit of bias or prejudice. Whether that is the reason or not does not appear. The law does not require the affiant to give or assign any reason or reasons for his belief that he cannot have a fair and impartial trial because of the judge's bias or prejudice or interest. It requires him to make and file the affidavit and prescribes its contents, but it does not make it a condition of the affidavit that it shall be true, nor will it weigh or estimate the motive for making it. So then it maters not what may have prompted the affidavit, if it complies with the law and was made and filed in time.'

It is apparent there is a conflict between the reasons upon which the Barry case is bottomed and the holding in the Stephens case. We do not think this court intended to overrule the Stephens case, else it would have said so. We think the failure to recognize it was inadvertent. Our view is that the Stephens decisions is correct. To the extent, therefore, that Arizona Conference Corp. v. Barry, supra, is authority for the proposition that a party permitting a judge to pass upon any litigated or contested matter whatever, either on motion or plea, waives his right to disqualify the judge, that case is expressly disapproved.

Whether the result reached in the Barry case is correct for other reasons is a different matter. There the Honorable Judge Barry heard an application for temporary injunction to stop the construction of a church for the alleged reason it violated building restrictions. Voluminous evidence ...

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