Word of the Day – Recuse

Word of the Day: March 31, 2023


verb rih-KYOOZ

What It Means

  • Recuse means “to disqualify (oneself) as judge in a particular case.” More broadly, it can also mean “to remove (oneself) from participation to avoid a conflict of interest.”
  • // The judge decided to recuse herself from the case due to the nature of her relationship with the plaintiff’s family.
  • See the entry >

RECUSE In Context

“The court’s profile has only increased as a new majority has moved rapidly on a range of polarizing issues. That has also increased scrutiny on the justices, the activities of their spouses, and when the court’s members should recuse themselves from cases.” — Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow, The Boston Globe, 10 Feb. 2023

Did You Know?

If you ever find yourself accused of refusing to recuse yourself, look on the bright side: you may be in a legal predicament, but you’ve also got a great occasion to learn some etymology. Accuse and recuse not only share space in the vocabulary of the courtroom, they both ultimately trace back to the Latin word causa, meaning “legal case,” “reason,” or “cause.” The current legal use of recuse to mean “to disqualify (oneself) as a judge” didn’t settle into frequent use until the 19th century. Broader application soon followed, and you can now recuse yourself from such things as debates and decisions as well as court cases.