Nicholas v. Sammons

In Nicholas v. Sammons, 178 W. Va. 631, 363 S.E.2d 516 (1987), the Court articulated two general policy considerations that underlie the necessity of disqualification. First, the Court stressed "the universally recognized principle that a prosecutor's duty is to obtain justice and not simply to convict." Id. at 632, 363 S.E.2d at 518. In this vein, the Nicholas Court quoted from State v. Boyd, 160 W. Va. 234, 233 S.E.2d 710 (1977): "The prosecuting attorney occupies a quasi-judicial position in the trial of a criminal case. In keeping with this position, he is required to avoid the role of a partisan, eager to convict, and must deal fairly with the accused as well as the other participants in the trial. It is the prosecutor's duty to set a tone of fairness and impartiality, and while he may and should vigorously pursue the State's case, in so doing he must not abandon the quasi-judicial role with which he is cloaked under the law." (Nicholas, 178 W. Va. at 632, 363 S.E.2d at 518.) The second policy basis for prosecutorial disqualification identified in Nicholas concerned the desirability of promoting public confidence in the criminal justice system: "If a prosecutor has a conflict or personal interest in a criminal case that he is handling, this can erode the public confidence as to the impartiality of the system." 178 W. Va. at 632, 363 S.E.2d at 518.