O'Brien v. O'BrienAnnotate this Case
In 2003, wife filed domestic battery charges against husband; he was found not guilty and filed for dissolution. At a 2005 hearing on a motion to modify temporary child support, the judge stated that the parties had been before him in the domestic battery case. Neither lawyer objected. Nearly a year later, husband sought substitution of judge, asserting bias. Wife testified that she worked part-time at a fitness club where the judge was a member, but had only said "hello," twice, in passing; husband testified that wife had indicated that she was "taking care of" the judge and that the judge had disclosed that wife had approached him several times. The petition was denied for lack of proof of actual prejudice. The appellate court and highest court affirmed. The "actual prejudice" standard was properly applied; a proposed "appearance of impropriety" standard would encourage judge-shopping. A litigant is entitled to one automatic substitution if requested before trial or hearing begins and before the assigned judge has ruled on any substantial issue, 735 ILCS 5/2–1001(a)(2)(ii). After a substantive ruling, however, (a)(3) requires substitution only when cause exists. The statute does not define "cause," but recusal is required when the probability of actual bias is too high to be constitutionally tolerable.