In this case, the trial judge was the target of a federal bribery investigation in which the prosecutor’s office and state law enforcement participated. When defense counsel moved to recuse the judge at trial, the judge falsely represented that he did not know whether state law enforcement was involved in the investigation, and did not correct the prosecutor’s false representations that the Clark County District Attorney’s Office had no involvement in the federal investigation. The trial judge also failed to disclose that one of the State’s witnesses in Rippo’s case was a material part of the bribery investigation because the judge had fixed a case on behalf of the witness. Rippo was therefore deprived of a factual basis for his recusal motion throughout the prior state proceedings until the filing of the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus.
The question presented is: Did the trial judge’s failure to recuse himself from Rippo’s capital trial violate the Due Process Clause?
DECISIONGRANTED, VACATED AND REMANDED ON MARCH 6, 2017
The Nevada Supreme Court did not ask the question our precedents require: whether, considering all the circumstances alleged, the risk of bias was too high to be constitutionally tolerable. As a result, we grant the petition for writ of certiorari and the motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and we vacate the judgment below and remand the case for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
CERTIORARI STAGEGranted March 6, 2017
Supreme Court of Nevada
Decided February 25, 2016