U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger reversed a misdemeanor conviction out of Yosemite National Park on the ground that magistrate judge William M. Wunderlich's noose in his chambers raised sufficient concerns of impartiality that he should have granted the defendant's motion to recuse. Download Judge Wanger's U.S. v. Baca decision, 4-14-09.
Under the totality of circumstances, Appellant’s convictions and punishment cannot stand. The public’s confidence in the impartiality, fairness, and sound judgment of the judiciary deserves the highest respect and must be maintained. Appellant was and is entitled to be tried by a judge unencumbered by the appearance of partiality, i.e., a judge who does not possess and publicly display, just before trial, for public dissemination, a hangman’s noose that portrays injustice, bigotry, and unfairness.
Id. at 16-17. Hard to Argue With That Conclusion! Doesn't this make all of the magistrate judge's decisions in criminal cases suspect and provide cause for automatic recusal. For more details, see Fresno Bee's Story here, 4/14/09
In an unusual post-decision development, Download Judge Wanger's Order re mag judge's email, Judge Wanger filed an email he received from the magistrate judge asking for an opportunity to correct factual mistakes in Wanger's opinion.