State v. Eastlack

In State v. Eastlack, 180 Ariz. 243, 883 P.2d 999 (1994), the defendant successfully moved to disqualify a judge and then contended that the presiding judge, who made a reassignment to another judge, was himself biased and should not have been allowed to make the reassignment. In rejecting this argument, the supreme court noted that the reassignment judge had made no substantive rulings involving the merits of the case but had simply performed "the mere preliminary function" of assigning the case to an impartial tribunal. Id. at 254, 883 P.2d at 1010. The court also held that there was no legal basis for a random selection of judges and that the defendant had cited no authority requiring a superior court to do so. Id. The opinion in Eastlack was based upon the court's earlier decision in State v. Watkins, 125 Ariz. 570, 611 P.2d 923 (1980), in which the court rejected the argument that a disqualified presiding judge was also disqualified from reassigning the case. "Appellant alleges it was improper, or at least displayed an appearance of impropriety, to permit a judge who has been dismissed for cause to subsequently appoint the judge ultimately presiding at sentencing. Appellant, however, cites no authority for this novel proposition, nor do we choose to adopt such a rule." Id. at 575, 611 P.2d at 928.