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Joseph Maldonado-Passage, known as Joe Exotic, has filed the first of several motions designed to reverse his 2019 conviction. The first motion is entitled Defendant’s Motion for Disqualification and cites Sections 144 and 455(a) and (b) of Title 28 of the United States Code. Each provides separate, although overlapping, bases for disqualification of the trial judge Scott Palk.

Several grounds are referenced within the Motion. Judge Palk has simultaneously been the judge in four different cases involving Maldonado-Passage, ruling adversely and sanctioning him in each. He has also sanctioned witnesses in other cases, which make them hesitant to believe justice will be fair in further proceedings. While not the sole basis for recusal, the Court has familiarity with many facts not entered into evidence in the criminal case based on his pre-existing personal knowledge of the same facts in dispute in the simultaneous civil cases. Based on this alone, an appearance of impartiality cannot exist.

This culminated with Judge Palk’s comments at Mr. Maldonado-Passage’s sentencing hearing, which was recently vacated by Tenth Circuit District Court of Appeal. By nature of Judge Palk’s own statements at sentencing, he considers Mr. Maldonado-Passage dishonest and incapable of having animals. He bases his bias not only on...

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