Judge recuses himself from civil lawsuits linked to Ooltewah High School rape case

The exterior of Ooltewah High School photographed on Sunday, January 31, 2016. (Staff file photo by Maura Friedman)

A federal judge recused himself Monday from a pair of 2016 civil lawsuits related to the Ooltewah High School rape, citing a law that deals with impartiality.

U.S. District Judge Travis McDonough did not say why he removed himself from the cases nearly a year and a half into proceedings. His office declined to comment Tuesday.

In a one-page order, McDonough cited 28 U.S. Code 455, which says federal judges must disqualify themselves whenever their impartiality "might reasonably be questioned." U.S. District Court Judge Harry "Sandy" Mattice has been assigned to the case.

According to the law, disqualification includes any personal bias toward someone on the case, any personal knowledge of disputed facts in the case, any time the judge might have represented someone now involved in the case, and any spouse or third party who could be substantially affected by the outcome of the case.