CA6: Judge issuing SW isn’t barred from conducting trial

The Michigan state courts’ conclusion that the judge who issued a search warrant was not barred from hearing the trial was based on precedent, the judge didn’t remember the search warrant, and it is not an unreasonable application of existing precedent under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Cameron v. Rewerts, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 987 (6th Cir. Jan. 14, 2021):

Our judicial system operates under a fundamental presumption that trial judges are impartial, even when presented with inadmissible or prejudicial information. Harris v. Rivera, 454 U.S. 339, 346 (1981) (“In bench trials, judges routinely hear inadmissible evidence that they are presumed to ignore when making decisions.”); Withrow v. Larkin, 421 U.S. 35, 47 (1975) (noting “a presumption of honesty and integrity in those serving as adjudicators”). For that reason, “[i]t has long been regarded as normal and proper for a judge to sit in the same case upon its remand, and to sit in successive trials involving the same defendant.” Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 551 (1994).

That’s effectively what happened here. The trial judge reviewed the search-warrant affidavit as part of the investigative proceeding. Though he later presided over Cameron’s bench trial, it is presumed that he “consider[ed the] evidence” in the affidavit “and then dismiss[ed] it from [his] mind[].” Coley v. Bagley, 706 F.3d 741, 750 (6th Cir. 2013) (cleaned up). The record shows that was the case here. Before trial, the judge asserted that he did not remember any specific information in the affidavit. And after trial, he explained in his verdict that he considered only evidence entered at trial.

Cameron offers two counterarguments. First, Cameron claims that the presumption of impartiality does not apply because prosecutors sought the search warrant without Cameron’s counsel present. But he offers no legal authority to support his claim. Second, Cameron argues that the trial judge’s impartiality is irrelevant. The true question before us, he says, is whether he voluntarily waived his right to a jury trial. But we did not certify that question for appeal as a freestanding issue, so we will not consider it now. SeeAbdur’Rahmanv. Colson, 649 F.3d 468, 473 (6th Cir. 2011); see also 28 U.S.C. § 2253.

In sum, Cameron has not established that the state court’s fair-trial decision was contrary to clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court. See Harrington, 562 U.S. at 103. His first claim therefore fails.

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