American Judges Association
Appointment of Counsel for Civil Litigants: A Judicial Path to Ensuring the Fair and Ethical Administration of Justice
Date of this Version
Court Review - Volume 56
In 2015, a pro se litigant named Aikiam Floyd brought a race discrimination claim in federal court against his former employer.1 However, his claim faced a motion to dismiss for being allegedly time barred. Jack Weinstein, who has been a federal judge in the Eastern District of New York since 1967, asked Floyd “a series of leading questions” to elicit the facts demonstrating the claim was not in fact time barred.2 Judge Weinstein then sua sponte recused himself, stating, “[T]he judge has intervened on plaintiff’s behalf. While no partiality could be construed in rejecting defendant’s motion for summary judgment based on timeliness, recusal now is desirable to avoid the appearance of partiality by the undersigned judge in future decisions in the case.”3 He expressed his frustration succinctly by commenting, “In many cases, pro se justice is an oxymoron.”4 The judge’s actions were so notable that they received a writeup in the New York Law Journal.5
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