A young man and his Mom appeared before us that I know from the neighborhood. When I saw that I excused myself from hearing the case. Was that the correct thing to do? Is there a protocol to follow in situations like this?There isn't any formal protocol regarding the issue of potential conflicts such as the situation that you described.
When I have encountered such situations, unless the board member felt strongly about not wanting to be present, I have asked the family if they wanted the person excused or not. The reason I would leave it up to the family is that the family may actually want the person to remain at the hearing because they may provide a supportive or "friendly face" to the proceedings.
It really depends on the relationship between the family and the board member. Keeping in mind that JRBs are community-based programs, having a neighbor or some other person known to the family at the hearing is to be expected from time to time. A board member should only be excused if the family requests it or the board member thinks that their relationship or prior contact with the family would interfere with the fair adjudication of the case.
Of course, the family cannot pick and choose who will sit on the board. If they have too much of a problem with the composition of the board, they could have the case sent to the court.
In your situation, if you thought you could still act fairly and without prejudice, you should only be excused if the family requested your removal. They should be informed that they have the right to make that request and that, if they did, it would not have any adverse impact on the outcome of the case.
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