Blake v. Waks, — So.3d —-, 2009 WL 1212242 (Fla. 3d DCA May 06, 2009) (NO. 3D09-980)
One of the defining characteristics of probate litigation is that cases are always decided by judges: no juries here. So if you’re afraid you won’t get a fair hearing because a judge says or does something demonstrating bias against you, you’re entitled to request that he or she disqualify himself or herself. F.S. § 38.10; Fla. R. Jud. Adm. 2.330. In the linked-to opinion the 3d DCA applied this standard in granting a request to disqualify a probate judge for apparently being biased against the petitioner. Here’s the court’s one-paragraph explanation of its ruling:
According to duly executed affidavits, in denying agreed motions to disburse the net proceeds of an intestate estate to the petitioner Blake, a genealogical researcher who had found and who held unchallenged powers of attorney from the previously unknown heirs of the decedent, see Morse v. Clark, 890 So.2d 496 (Fla. 5th DCA 2004) (recognizing party status of genealogical service holding assignments from heirs), the presiding probate division circuit judge volunteered the statement, among others, that she did not trust him to make the required distribution to his principals. This comment, based on nothing in the record or otherwise, well justified the petitioner’s expressed belief that she was not impartial, and therefore required the granting of his application for her disqualification. See Grandview Palace Condo. Ass’n v. City of N. Bay Vill., 974 So.2d 1170 (Fla. 3d DCA 2008); Miami Dade Coll. v. Turnberry Invs., 979 So.2d 1211 (Fla. 3d DCA 2008).