State v. Oakes, 209 N.C. App. 18 (Jan. 4, 2011)

The defendant failed to demonstrate grounds for recusal. The defendant argued that recusal was warranted based on the trial judge’s comments at various hearings and on the fact that “the trial court was often dismissive of defense counsel’s efforts and made a number of rulings unfavorable to the Defendant.” The court cautioned the trial court with respect to the following statement made at trial: “The other thing I want to do is put on the record that I leave to the appellate courts whether or not any recommendation as to discipline should be made to any of the responses or conduct of the attorneys based upon the record in this case as to whether any of the Rules of Practice or Rules of Conduct have been violated.” The court concluded that although it was unclear what issue the trial court meant to address with this statement, “it is the trial court’s responsibility initially to pass on these concerns if the court has them, especially in view of the fact that the trial court is in a better position than a Court of the Appellate Division both to observe and control the trial proceedings. . . . It is not for the trial court to abdicate its role in managing the conduct of trial to an appellate court whose task is to review the cold record” (citation omitted).