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Recusal means the self-removal of a judge or prosecutor because of a conflict of interest. Common instances of recusal usually involve when the judge or prosecutor worked with or under one of the subjects of a case or a criminal investigation, or when the judge or prosecutor has past or present business ties with the subject. For example, in 1990 U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh recused himself from a criminal investigation into drug use among public officials because one of his former aides was a subject to the investigation. As another example, in 2008, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey recused himself from an investigation into the Alavi Foundation’s Iranian ties because he had previously represented them in court when he was in private practice.

[Last updated in December of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]