Backpage

Judge Whose A.G. Spouse Bashes Backpage Won't Recuse Herself From Backpage Trial

Judge Susan Brnovich said no reasonable person would question her impartiality just because her husband already says they're guilty.

|

Just how corrupt can the government's case against Backpage get? First, prosecutors tried to have the defendants' longtime lawyers disqualified on dubious grounds (a judge said no). Then, they turned over to the defense secret memos that contradict their claims—and could help clear defendants of the charges in question—but the court ruled these memos inadmissible since the government hadn't meant to let anyone see them. In addition, authorities seized from former staff assets that had nothing to do with the now-defunct classified advertising website, leaving them struggling to pay for lawyers to defend them against charges of facilitating prostitution and money laundering in the face of repeated trial postponements.

Now, the judge on the Backpage case is refusing to recuse herself despite a very clear conflict of interest.

Assigned to the case is U.S. District Judge Susan M. Brnovich—wife of Arizona Attorney General (A.G.) Mark Brnovich, who has repeatedly made public and prejudicial statements related to the case.

As one example, the defense points to a booklet put out by Brnovich and his office called "Human Trafficking: Arizona's Not Buying It." The booklet—published two months after the April 2018 arrest of Backpage founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin and others associated with the site—asserts that online ads and social media are the primary facilitators of child sex trafficking and specifically call out Backpage as a guilty party. It contains unfounded statistics about both sex trafficking and child abuse generally and Backpage specifically, while copiously citing and promoting groups whose leaders are on the U.S. government's witness list against Backpage.

Brnovich's website, webinars, and social media accounts also cite these government witness groups approvingly and make statements similar to those in the booklet. Currently, under the webinar section of his website, a presentation titled "human trafficking for parents" states that "Backpage.com is where the vast majority of all advertisements were posted for sex trafficking."

In 2017, Brnovich signed on to a letter calling for Congress to change or abolish Section 230 of federal communications law so he and other state attorneys general could sue Backpage and other websites that run third-party content they don't like. In it, Brnovich and the other attorneys general assert directly that Backpage is guilty of promoting child sex trafficking.

"Defendants are entitled to a case presided over by a judge whose impartiality cannot be reasonably questioned," their September 23 motion for recusal states. "Defendants move Judge Brnovich to recuse herself from this matter on the grounds that…her spouse has interests that could be substantially affected by the outcome of this proceeding" and "her spouse's interests, and public statements and actions, create an appearance of partiality."

Both things are grounds for recusal under U.S. law.

"In my opinion, the court has a duty…to recuse," wrote retired federal judge Vaughn R Walker in a statement to the court. Brnovich "has expressly targeted an entity with which these defendants are identified. This makes it impossible to dissociate the views of the Attorney General from the issues in this case," stated Walker.

The trial—now slated for April 2021—will leave defendants' fate to a jury, but Judge Brnovich has had and will continue to have significant influence on the outcome of the case through her rulings on various motions, including a motion for acquittal and motions regarding what testimony can be included or excluded.

For Judge Brnovich to rule a certain way on these motions would be to suggest her husband is a serial liar. It's hard not to see how that could affect her decisions.

But the government's response motion, submitted October 7, suggests it's ridiculous to think a judge couldn't rule impartially just because their spouse had repeatedly accused the defendants of the conduct they're on trial for. "In the year 2020, it is anachronistic to suggest that a federal judge with 17 years of judicial experience is unable to preside impartially because of her husband's views," write U.S. prosecutors.

That's simply not true, of course—in the year 2020, we (thankfully) haven't yet become such a banana republic that judges aren't generally expected to recuse themselves from cases in which their spouses, family members, or other close ties have a direct interest.

The government claims that A.G. Brnovich doesn't really have an "interest" in this case because he doesn't stand to directly gain or lose money from its outcome, nor does he own a private business which may be adversely financially affected by said outcome.

But presumably, Brnovich will not be Arizona's top cop forever, and his future private business forays will be judged by his time and reputation as A.G. It's also not unreasonable to think that his future as an elected Arizona official depends on his reputation, which could be affected by this case.

("As long as [Judge Brnovich] put our heads on pikes, her husband would get to trumpet our conviction as a family affair in his next election," writes Backpage co-defendant and veteran newspaper editor Lacey in a blog post this week.)

It's certainly not unreasonable to suggest that Mark Brnovich's reputation may take a hit if—after years of bashing Backpage, partnering with the government's witnesses against Backpage on various initiatives, and putting out myriad public statements that turn on the core issues in this case—the Backpage crew is not only acquitted of the government's allegations but his wife plays a role in that.

This isn't to suggest that Judge Brnovich absolutely couldn't or wouldn't rule impartially. But even the suggestion of potential bias is enough to merit a recusal. Again and again (and again and again), federal courts have ruled that "the test for disqualification…is an objective one: whether a reasonable person with knowledge of all the facts would conclude that the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

Based on this, the defendants argue that "it is irrelevant whether Judge Brnovich subjectively believes she is capable of impartially presiding over the case. If AG Brnovich has an interest and it could be substantially affected, Judge Brnovich must recuse, even if she believes she can be impartial."

"The undisputed facts show AG Brnovich (and others acting on his behalf): have railed against the particular business at the core of this case (Backpage.com, LLC); have made public statements that reasonable people would conclude mean AG Brnovich believes Defendants are guilty of the crimes charged in this case; have directed the public to websites making similar claims and containing inflammatory and highly prejudicial statements about Backpage.com and Defendants; and have directly or indirectly vouched for the credibility of many of the government's witnesses in this case," they noted in a reply to the government's response motion.

The government did not contest the idea that many of A.G. Brnovich's statements were matters that the prosecution intended to bring up at trial and points which would be hotly debated. Rather, it suggested that because Brnovich's position on Backpage has "been widely known to the internet-viewing public for years," the defendants' recent motions are too late and "should be afforded little weight."

But the fact that a lot of people—including potential jurors—may have heard or seen the A.G. trashing the defendants for years seems like an argument for recusal, not against.

Perhaps the craziest part of all of this is that Judge Brnovich gets the final say in whether a reasonable person might find she has a potential conflict. Unsurprisingly, she said no—since her husband didn't stand to make or lose any money from the outcome, there was no conflict of interest.

In an October 23 motion, Brnovich denied the defendants' motion for recusal, writing that a "reasonable person apprised of the facts would not question the Court's impartiality."

NEXT: Meet the Highest-Polling Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate in the Country

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “U.S. District Judge Susan M. Brnovich”

    I would like to buy a vowel . . .

    1. Do you want a duck, a chickent or a turkey? Maybe a goose?

      1. I make up to $90 an hour on-line from my home. My story is that I give up operating at walmart to paintings on-line and with a bit strive I with out problem supply in spherical $40h to $86h… someone turned into top to me by way of manner of sharing this hyperlink with me,HGf so now i’m hoping i ought to help a person else accessible through sharing this hyperlink…

        ================► Home Profit System

        1. I am now making extra $19k or more every month from home by doing very simple and easy job online from home. I have received exactly $20845 last month from this home job. Join now this job and start making extra Job cash online by follow instruction on the given website…..

          For more detail visit the given link………… Visit Here

        2. Google is by and by paying $27485 to $29658 consistently for taking a shot at the web from home. I have joined this action 2 months back and I have earned $31547 in my first month from this action. I can say my life is improved completely! Take a gander at it what I do….. Visit Here

        3. ¦A¦M¦A¦Z¦I¦N¦G¦ ¦J¦O¦B¦S¦
          Start your work at home right now. Spend more time with your family and earn. Start bringing 85$/hr just on a laptop. Very easy way to make your life happy and earning continuously.last week my check was 24551$.pop over here this site…….COPY HERE====Go For More Details

          1. I get paid more than $120 to $130 per hour for working online. I heard about this job 3 months ago and after joining this i have earned FGR easily $15k from this without having online working skills.

            This is what I do….. Visit Here

    2. Start now earning cash every month online from home. Getting paid more than 15$ by doing an easy job online. I have made $19715 in last 4 weeks from this job. Easy to join and earning from this are just awesome. Join this right now by follow………USA PART TIME JOB.

      1. I make up to $90 an hour on-line from my home. My story is that I give up operating at walmart to paintings on-line and with a bit strive I with qwe out problem supply in spherical $40h to $86h… someone turned into top to me by way of manner of sharing this hyperlink with me, so now i m hoping i ought to help a person else accessible through sharing this hyperlink…

        ================►Hone Work Profit

    3. STAY AT HOME & WORK AT HOME FOR USA ]H̲o̲m̲e̲ ̲B̲a̲s̲i̲c̲ ̲J̲o̲b̲s̲….. ̲E̲v̲e̲r̲y̲b̲o̲d̲y̲ ̲c̲a̲n̲ ̲e̲a̲r̲n̲ ̲u̲p̲t̲o̲ ̲$1̲5̲k̲ ̲e̲v̲e̲r̲y̲ ̲m̲o̲n̲t̲h̲ ̲f̲r̲o̲m̲ ̲h̲o̲m̲e̲ ̲b̲y̲ ̲w̲o̲r̲k̲i̲n̲g̲ ̲o̲n̲l̲i̲n̲e̲. ̲I̲ ̲h̲a̲v̲e̲ ̲r̲e̲c̲e̲i̲v̲e̲d̲ ̲$1̲7̲2̲9̲4̲ ̲l̲a̲s̲t̲ ̲m̲o̲n̲t̲h̲ ̲b̲y̲ ̲d̲o̲i̲n̲g̲ ̲t̲h̲i̲s̲ ̲e̲a̲s̲y̲ ̲a̲n̲d̲ ̲s̲i̲m̲p̲l̲e̲ ̲j̲o̲b̲ ̲o̲n̲l̲i̲n̲e̲ ̲f̲r̲o̲m̲ ̲h̲o̲m̲e̲. ̲I̲t̲s̲ ̲a̲n̲ ̲e̲a̲s̲y̲ ̲a̲n̲d̲ ̲s̲i̲m̲p̲l̲e̲ ̲j̲o̲b̲ ̲t̲o̲ ̲d̲o̲ ̲o̲n̲l̲i̲n̲e̲ ̲a̲n̲d̲ ̲e̲v̲e̲n̲ ̲a̲ ̲l̲i̲t̲t̲l̲e̲ ̲c̲h̲i̲l̲d̲ ̲c̲a̲n̲ ̲d̲o̲ ̲t̲h̲i̲s̲ ̲j̲o̲b̲ ̲f̲r̲o̲m̲ ̲h̲o̲m̲e̲. ̲E̲v̲e̲r̲y̲b̲o̲d̲y̲ ̲c̲a̲n̲ ̲g̲e̲t̲ ̲t̲h̲i̲s̲ ̲j̲o̲b̲ ̲n̲o̲w̲ ̲b̲y̲ ̲j̲u̲s̲t̲ ̲c̲o̲p̲y̲ ̲t̲h̲i̲s̲ ̲s̲i̲t̲e̲ ̲i̲n̲ ̲b̲r̲o̲w̲s̲e̲r̲ ̲a̲n̲d̲ ̲t̲h̲e̲n̲ ̲f̲o̲l̲l̲o̲w̲ ̲i̲n̲s̲t̲r̲u̲c̲t̲i̲o̲n̲ ̲t̲o̲ ̲g̲e̲t̲ ̲s̲t̲a̲r̲t̲e̲d̲…….. ↠↠↠

      H̲E̲R̲E̲►COPY THIS WEBSITE………Visit Here   

    4. Paging Kent Hrbek!!!!

  2. Sex, tears, this must be the news.

    1. I am now making extra $19k or more every month from home by doing very simple and easy job online from home. I have received exactly $20845 last month from this home job. Join now this job and start making JCK extra Job cash online by follow instruction on the given website…..

      For more detail visit the given link….Click here

  3. Recusal, reversal on appeal – all the same except for a few bucks here and there.
    Never confuse a court of law with a hall of justice.

    1. Google is by and by paying $27485 to $29658 consistently for taking a shot at the web from home. I have joined this action 2 months back and I have earned $31547 in my now first month from this action. I can say my life is improved completely! Take a gander at it

      what I do………Click here

  4. How will Elizabeth work her second job without Backpage?

    1. How will you get any sex without Backpage?

      1. This is the truth of the matter, he’s just projecting–again

    2. Found the person with pathetic sexual hangups.

  5. The Brnovichs are Democrats, one assumes.

    1. The judge was appointed by Trump and the AG was elected as a Republican, based on what I can see online.

      1. Not to worry; Harris studied under Willie Brown and was also hell on ‘tutes.

    2. Atty Gen Brnovich is Republican, probably of the SOCON variety.

  6. Sorry about your demotion.

  7. She doesn’t necessarily have the final say. In my area the First Circuit issued a pretrial writ of mandamus to remove a judge from Whitey Bulger’s trial because the judge had worked as a prosecutor during the period when Bulger allegedly had a license to kill. _In Re James J. Bulger_, case 12-2488.

    1. And regardless, this sounds like an error of law that an appeals court could very well take issue with.

  8. Samuel L. Bronkowitz presents…

  9. Funny how none of this funny business ever ends in a disbarment – – – – – –

  10. Gotta love seeing the feminist writer argue women have no agency if their husband has an opinion.

    1. I don’t think you know what “agency” is. It’s actually quite common for husband and wife to share views and have a common agenda, even without him coercing her into it. And as the article explains, the legal issue is whether the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned. The exact same question would arise if it were a male judge presiding over a case brought by his wife, or by a family member. Nothing to do with feminism.

    2. It’s her agency that’s a problem. Her ability to control her own actions allow her to act in her own self-interest: protecting the reputation of her husband.

    3. I suppose it’s the wife who usually witholds pussy. The dude maybe pissed at his wife’s potential rulings, but he’ll eventually get horny enough he’ll still give her some dick, though he may not be as motivated to give her an orgasm.

    4. Gotta love people with poor reading comprehension posting in comments sections.

  11. When all participants of a “system” are feeding from the same nose-bag, free from competition — and are allowed (by your neighbors and friends — hopefully not you) to
    • Make the laws,
    • Enforce the laws,
    • Prosecute the laws,
    • Hire the prosecutors,
    • License the “defense” attorneys,
    • Pay the “judges”,
    • Build the jails,
    • Contract jails out to private entities,
    • Employ and pay the wardens,
    • Employ and pay the guards,
    • Employ and pay the parole officers,
    One can’t honestly call it a “justice” system. It’s a system of abject tyranny.

  12. From her wikipedia page: “Brnovich began her legal career by serving as a prosecutor with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. ”

    So, she’s an accomplice of that fascist prick, Joe Arpaio?

    -jcr

    1. You don’t have to sign your comments,they’re comments not love letters to reason, and we can see your name at the top.

      1. “You don’t have to sign your comments,they’re comments not love letters to reason, and we can see your name at the top.”

        You don’t have to post your comments; we know you’re a piece of lefty shit.

  13. Aren’t prosecutors supposed to hand over any exculpatory evidence? So why not the memos?

  14. Another fine example of how corrupt justice really is and how freedom is just an illusion.

  15. The Backpage story isn’t being told correctly. It’s important to remember Kamala Harris has a huge role with the intelligence agencies and this extends to Arizona as well. Backpage was working closely with law enforcement and it was a successful partnership – but this meant it got a bit “too close” to VIPs protected by the intelligence agencies – think Jeffrey Epstein rings. By taking Backpage out, law enforcement officers are turning to CIA-linked computer tools associated with mass surveillance, basically allowing the National Security State to shield operations such as Epstein’s from nosy local law enforcement – not to mention the kickbacks to the military-industrial complex for advanced “AI” “Pre-crime” programs that were previously handled by Backpage’s staff’s good judgement.

    https://unlimitedhangout.com/2020/09/investigative-reports/ashton-kutchers-ngo-supplies-police-with-free-cia-linked-surveillance-tool-to-protect-kids/

  16. ★I’am made $84, 8254 so far this year working on the web and I’m a full time understudy. Im utilizing an online business opportunity I caught wind of and I’AM profited. It’s truly easy to understand and I’m simply so cheerful that I got some answers concerning it. Here what I do,.for more data essentially open this connection thank you….. Read More  

  17. Start now earning cash every month online from home. Getting paid more than 15$ by doing an easy job online. I have made $19715 in last 4 weeks from this job. Easy to join and earning from this are just awesome. Join this right now by follow……… USA PART TIME JOB.

  18. “In an October 23 motion, Brnovich denied the defendants’ motion for recusal, writing that a “reasonable person apprised of the facts would not question the Court’s impartiality.” Well, I certainly don’t question it, the Judge flushed it down the Toilet.

    1. If the wife of the prosecutor was a potential juror for the case, the defense would immediately eliminate him/her for cause.

  19. Single Mom With 4 Kids Lost Her Job and…READ MORE

  20. The judge is right, there aren’t many reasonable people.

    1. Nazi shit and asshole besides.
      Fuck off and die; your family will thank you.

  21. Single Mom With 4 Kids Lost Her Job…READ MORE

  22. What if she rules for the defense just to show up her husband?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.