SBF criminal trial judge recused after husband’s law company advised FTX

Ronnie Abrams, a federal judge, recused herself since her husband’s law business advised and represented FTX in 2021.

On December 23, federal judge Ronnie Abrams recused herself from overseeing the high-profile criminal prosecution of former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF). In a court order, the federal judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York cited the possibility of a conflict of interest as the basis for his resignation.

In the judgement, the judge said that her husband’s law firm, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, gave legal counsel to the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX in 2021. 

The court judgement said that Greg D. Andres, the spouse of Abrams, “had no role” in any of FTX and affiliated parties’ statements. Abrams recused herself “to prevent any conceivable conflict or the appearance of one” despite the fact that the terms of the transactions between FTX and Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP are secret and, so, unknown to her.

When a new judge from the Southern District of New York will be chosen for the SBF trial remains uncertain. Typically, judges are given cases at random and are only disqualified when a possible conflict of interest exists.

Some have questioned why Abrams took so long to disqualify herself from the case. The New York Times reports that Abrams was assigned to the case before SBF was extradited to the United States on December 21.

Before making such judgements, judges often consider conflicts of interest with the district’s top judge and an ethics committee, as well as examine relevant precedents.

A day before Abrams’ recusal, another judge, Gabriel Gorenstein, ordered SBF’s release on a $250 million bail bond. However, the enormous bail sum has sparked criticism since SBF did not pay a penny.

The bail was obtained by SBF’s parents, who apparently pledged their $4 million family house as collateral. The court is only entitled to the bail sum if SBF fails to appear at his court sessions.

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