In re JP Linahan, No. 142

CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
Writing for the CourtL. HAND, SWAN, and FRANK, Circuit
PartiesIn re J. P. LINAHAN, Inc.
Decision Date08 November 1943
Docket Number143.,No. 142

138 F.2d 650 (1943)

In re J. P. LINAHAN, Inc.

Nos. 142, 143.

Circuit Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

November 8, 1943.


138 F.2d 651

Weinstein & Levinson, of New York City, for answering stockholders and answering creditor.

Baar, Bennett & Fullen, of New York City (Frank Weinstein, Samuel J. Levinson, and John P. Hurley, all of New York City, of counsel), for debtor.

Raymond J. Scully, of New York City, for petitioning creditors.

Edward Robinson, Jr., of Oyster Bay, L. I., N. Y., for debtor in possession.

Trachman & Krosner, of New York City (Raymond J. Scully, of New York City, Harry Robinson, of Oyster Bay, L. I., N. Y., and Hilbert I. Trachman and Irving R. Krosner, both of New York City, of counsel), for minority stockholder.

Before L. HAND, SWAN, and FRANK, Circuit Judges.

FRANK, Circuit Judge.

1. Appellants complain that the District Court, having appointed Referee Olney as Special Master in Chapter X proceedings begun by involuntary petition and contested by appellants, denied appellants' application to remove that Special Master because of bias. Appellants point to matters alleged to show such bias, most of which are so frivolous as to deserve no discussion. Special emphasis is put on these facts: The Master has heretofore entered orders, accompanied by findings, adverse to appellants; the District Court's orders, approving these orders of the Master, were, in some instances, reversed by this court on previous appeals;1 some of the findings of the Special Master are alleged to have been, at least by inference, disapproved on these appeals and, in one instance, to have been based on hearsay. These facts do not call for removal of the Special Master.2 Appellants entertain a fundamentally false notion conception of the prejudice which disqualifies a judicial officer.3

Democracy must, indeed, fail unless our courts try cases fairly, and there can be no fair trial before a judge lacking in impartiality and disinterestedness. If, however, "bias" and "partiality" be defined to mean the total absence of preconceptions in the mind of the judge, then no one has ever had a fair trial and no one ever will. The human mind, even at infancy, is no blank piece of paper. We are born with predispositions; and the process of education, formal and informal, creates attitudes in all men which affect them in judging situations, attitudes which precede reasoning in particular instances and which, therefore, by definition, are pre-judices. Without acquired "slants," pre-conceptions, life could not go on. Every habit constitutes a pre-judgment; were those pre-judgments which we call habits absent in any person, were he obliged to treat every event as an unprecedented crisis presenting a wholly new problem he would go mad. Interests, points of view, preferences, are the

138 F.2d 652
essence of living. Only death yields complete dispassionateness, for such dispassionateness signifies utter indifference. "To live is to have a vocation, and to have a vocation is to have an ethics or scheme of values, and to have a scheme of values is to have a point of view, and to have a point of view is to have a prejudice or bias * * *"4 An "open mind," in the sense of a mind containing no preconceptions whatever, would be a mind incapable of learning anything, would be that of an utterly emotionless human being, corresponding roughly to the psychiatrist's descriptions of the feeble-minded.5 More directly to the point, every human society has a multitude of established attitudes, unquestioned postulates. Cosmically, they may seem parochial prejudices, but many of them represent the community's most cherished values and ideals.6 Such social pre-conceptions, the "value judgments" which members of any given society take for granted and use as the unspoken axioms of thinking, find their way into that society's legal system, become what has been termed "the valuation system of the law."7 The judge in our society owes a duty to act in accordance with those basic predilections inhering in our legal system (although, of course, he has the right, at times, to urge that some of them be modified or abandoned). The standard of dispassionateness obviously does not require the judge to rid himself of the unconscious influence of such social attitudes.8

In addition to those acquired social value judgments, every judge, however, unavoidably has many idiosyncratic "learnings of the mind," uniquely personal prejudices, which may interfere with his fairness at a trial. He may be stimulated by unconscious sympathies for, or antipathies to, some of the witnesses, lawyers or parties in a case before him. As Josiah Royce observed, "Oddities of feature or of complexion, slight physical variations from the customary, a strange dress, a scar, a too-steady look, a limp, a loud or deep voice, any of these peculiarities * * * may be, to one, an object of fascinated curiosity; to another * * *, an intense irritation, an object of violent antipathy."9 In Ex parte Chase, 43 Ala. 303, Judge Peters said he had "known a popular judicial officer grow quite angry with a suitor in his court, and threaten him with imprisonment, for no ostensible reason, save the fact, that he wore an overcoat made of wolf skins," and spoke of "prejudice, which may be swayed and controlled by the merest trifles — such as the toothache, the rheumatism, the gout, or a fit of indigestion, or even through the very means by which indigestion is frequently sought to be avoided." "Trifles," he added, "however ridiculous, cease to be trifles when they may interfere with a safe administration of the law." Frankly to recognize the existence of such prejudices is the part of wisdom. The conscientious judge will, as far as possible, make himself aware of his biases of this character, and, by that very self-knowledge, nullify their effect.10 Much harm is done by the myth that, merely by putting on a black robe and taking the oath of office as a judge, a man ceases

138 F.2d 653
to be human and strips himself of all predilections, becomes a passionless thinking machine.11 The concealment of the human element in the judicial process allows that element to operate in an exaggerated manner; the sunlight of awareness has an antiseptic effect on prejudices.12 Freely avowing that he is a human being, the judge can and should, through self-scrutiny, prevent the operation of this class of biases.13 This self-knowledge is needed in a judge because he is peculiarly exposed to emotional influences;14 the "court room is a place of surging emotions * * *; the parties are keyed up to the contest, often in open defiance; and the topics at issue are often calculated to stir up the sympathy, prejudice, or ridicule of the tribunal."15 The judge's decision turns, often, on what he believes to be the facts of the case. As a fact-finder, he is himself a witness — a witness of the witnesses; he should, therefore, learn to avoid the errors which, because of prejudice, often affect those witnesses.16

But, just because his fact-finding is based on his estimates of the witnesses, of...

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163 practice notes
  • Duplan Corporation v. Deering Milliken, Inc., Civ. A. No. 71-306
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • June 12, 1975
    ...can have no purpose other than to show when it first recognized the alleged prejudice and bias in the court's earlier comments. 55 138 F.2d 650 (2d Cir. 1938) (Frank, J., with L. Hand, J. and Swan, J.). 56 Id. at 651. 57 Id., quoted in United States v. Thomas, 299 F.Supp. 494, 498 (E.D.Mo.1......
  • U.S. v. Bernstein, Nos. 941
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • March 4, 1976
    ...absence of preconception, predispositions and other mental habits, as Judge Frank said so much more felicitously in In re Linahan, Inc., 138 F.2d 650, 651-52 (2d Cir. 1943). Of course such judicially acquired information or those natural preconceptions may lead a judge to feel a bias or pre......
  • Southern Pacific Communications Co. v. American Tel. and Tel. Co., No. 83-1102
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 26, 1984
    ...attitudes which precede reasoning in particular instances and which, therefore, by definition, are prejudices." In re J.P. Linahan, Inc., 138 F.2d 650, 651 (2d Cir.1943). If a judge approached every case completely free of preconceived views concerning the relevant law and policy, we would ......
  • In re Wilborn, Bankruptcy No. 03-48263-H4-13.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Fifth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Southern District of Texas
    • February 17, 2009
    ...called trials, he could never render decisions." Liteky, 510 U.S. at 551, 114 S.Ct. 1147 (quoting In re Page 869 J.P. Linahan, Inc., 138 F.2d 650, 654 (2d Cir.1943)). The undersigned judge's distaste for the practices of some creditors that have previously appeared in this Court is not suff......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
163 cases
  • Duplan Corporation v. Deering Milliken, Inc., Civ. A. No. 71-306
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • June 12, 1975
    ...can have no purpose other than to show when it first recognized the alleged prejudice and bias in the court's earlier comments. 55 138 F.2d 650 (2d Cir. 1938) (Frank, J., with L. Hand, J. and Swan, J.). 56 Id. at 651. 57 Id., quoted in United States v. Thomas, 299 F.Supp. 494, 498 (E.D.Mo.1......
  • U.S. v. Bernstein, Nos. 941
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • March 4, 1976
    ...absence of preconception, predispositions and other mental habits, as Judge Frank said so much more felicitously in In re Linahan, Inc., 138 F.2d 650, 651-52 (2d Cir. 1943). Of course such judicially acquired information or those natural preconceptions may lead a judge to feel a bias or pre......
  • Southern Pacific Communications Co. v. American Tel. and Tel. Co., No. 83-1102
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 26, 1984
    ...which precede reasoning in particular instances and which, therefore, by definition, are prejudices." In re J.P. Linahan, Inc., 138 F.2d 650, 651 (2d Cir.1943). If a judge approached every case completely free of preconceived views concerning the relevant law and policy, we would be in......
  • In re Wilborn, Bankruptcy No. 03-48263-H4-13.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Fifth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Southern District of Texas
    • February 17, 2009
    ...called trials, he could never render decisions." Liteky, 510 U.S. at 551, 114 S.Ct. 1147 (quoting In re Page 869 J.P. Linahan, Inc., 138 F.2d 650, 654 (2d Cir.1943)). The undersigned judge's distaste for the practices of some creditors that have previously appeared in this Court is not......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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