Judy Kay-Wolff


The word ‘recusal” is a rather new word in the English Language.   Some dictionaries do not even include it.   However, Merriam-Webster defines it as “to disqualify (oneself) as judge in a particular case;  broadly: to remove (oneself) from participation to avoid a conflict of interest.”   In fact, when using the word on your computer, sometimes a red rippled line appears, suggesting a misspelling.

The situation appears in the area of bridge more frequently than the average person realizes and no doubt the stench of the “Oh, Shit” farce permeated the four corners of the globe in no time flat as outraged emails came pouring into the ABCL in indignation.  (If you are not familiar with the situation, the two co-chairs of the said Committee were acknowledged arch-enemies of one of the contesting appellant teammates and it was prevalent common knowledge that such bad blood flowed among the three parties.   Because no one stepped up to the plate strongly urging the recusal of the co-chairmen (although their prejudice was front page news), the two co-chairman obviously ruled the roost and the victimized team lost the case — which went down as the most disgusting judgment in the annals of bridge history.   In fact, people sarcastically wrote that perhaps after they have made a bonehead play — just go before a committee using the OH, SHIT case as a defense and get the verdict reversed.   This appeal became the laughing stock of the bridge world and has yet to meet its equal.  Let us examine recusals — and the effect they have on the process.

1.   First of all, recusals apply to both the CHAIRMAN and their MEMBERS.  However, recusals do not stop there.   It is just as INAPPROPRIATE for those involved in a judiciary capacity to voluntarily NOT RECUSE THEMSELVES  (resign and step down) for either reasons of BIAS (BASED ON FRIENDSHIP OR FINANCIAL ACCESS)  or PREJUDICE (EMANATING FROM ANOTHER FORMER UNPLEASANT, NEGATIVE ENCOUNTER OR INCIDENT).      CHAIRMAN/MEMBER  — BIAS/PREJUDICE.   It makes no-never-mind!

2.  Individuals with past, personal histories  (either presiding or voting — in favor of or against) should be automatically dismissed with no options available.

3.  Since one votes the way he or she believes, (and these are serious matters with ethical overtones), there should be accountability with OPEN VOTES.   IF YOU AGREE TO SERVE ON A COMMITTEE IN GOOD FAITH, you should not be ashamed of your position (pro or con) — or abstaining ALWAYS WITH THE REASON REVEALED.   VOTING SHOULD BE PUBLIC RECORD    We cannot be so naive to think that a voter tells one person one thing when he has voted the opposite way.   ACCOUNTABIILITY SHOULD BE MANDATORY —   no ands, ifs or buts!

4.  Another major factor which is prevalent in bridge is that so many married couples or significant others serve on allied committees and the influence caused by this closeness is beyond belief.   The connection is there and the vote is not far behind!

Now let us candidly examine what would change an ordinarily fair person’s mind?   IT IS CALLED PROFESSIONALISM.     About 80 or more percent of the top players are involved in professionalism — where they make a living.   If a sponsor sits on the committee (which should be a no-no) or as an appellant or defendant (more likely), what position would you place yourself in should you take the opposite side.   It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to come up with a palpable answer.   Or, on the other hand, let us say a ‘respected’ pro serves on the committee and you take the opposite position, how good do you think your chances would be to get a referral from a pro who might be already engaged and asked to recommend a replacement?

People with specific agendas to satisfy (who cannot be objective) should be removed from committees as too much is at stake.   I know it is a sticky task, but if bridge is to be honored at any cost, the people serving on a committee (or chairing) must have pure hearts and clean hands.   Not too many qualified candidates are willing and available.    Self-preservation, if I am not mistaken, is the first law of the universe, but bridge falls outside that realm. We must fight it if the game is to be preserved and maintain its sanctity before professionalism continues to overstep its bounds.   Otherwise, the verdict will always go to the highest bidder.    Is this the course we wish our beloved game to follow?


MarthaJuly 28th, 2009 at 4:09 am

I can’t imagine anything worse then to enter a committee knowing that you had one confirmed strike against you. Personalities, larger than life, abound in the bridge world, let’s hope they will see their way clear to not serve if a whisper of a doubt may be present. Would there be anything more unethical, than a conduct & ethics committee, with members serving knowing them are biased?

Bobby WolffJuly 28th, 2009 at 5:00 am

Hi Martha,

Even worse than the non-recusing of someone who knows he is biased, is the simple fact that at this stage and where our ACBL is today, the perpetrators of this total lack of morality are just delighted that they have the chance to wreak havoc. It is also doubtful that they care about the game itself, otherwise, like stealthy cheating, they do much unseen, but not unfelt, damage to the discipline required to administer bridge correctly. All in the name of revenge, greed and jealousy. All of us should feel sorry for these unfortunate critters.