In Kern County, as in all other counties within the state, a judge who has a financial interest in the proceedings or in a party to the proceedings is disqualified. The judge is disqualified if the financial interest is held by the judge, the judge’s spouse, or a minor child who is living in the judge’s household, or if it is held by the judge or the judge’s spouse in a fiduciary capacity, i.e., as an executor, trustee, guardian, or administrator. Most judges will exercise caution when presiding over a matter where they have a financial interest.
What constitues a “financial interest”? According to one local Kern County Criminal Defense Lawyer, a “financial interest” can mean (1) ownership of more than a one percent legal or equitable interest in a party, (2) a legal or equitable interest in a party that has a fair market value of more than $1500, or (3) a relationship as a director, adviser, or other active participant in the affairs of a party. “Financial interest” does not include (1) ownership in a mutual or common investment fund that holds securities unless the judge participates in managing the fund, (2) holding an office in an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization that holds securities, or (3) an interest as a policyholder of a mutual insurance company or as a depositor in a mutual savings association, or a similar proprietary interest, unless the outcome of the particular case could substantially affect the value of that interest.
When does a Kern County Judge have a duty to disqualify himself? A judge may have a duty to disqualify himself or herself from hearing a case, based on ownership of bonds. Ownership of a corporate bond issued by a party is grounds for disqualification if the bond has a fair market value of more than $1500. Ownership of a government bond is considered grounds for disqualification only if the outcome of the proceeding could substantially affect the value of the judge’s bond. Ownership in a mutual or common investment fund that holds bonds is not a disqualifying financial interest.