MILLER, P. J., DOYLE, P. J., and REESE, J.
MILLER, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Patrick Serdula was indicted in Cobb County for numerous
offenses, including child molestation and aggravated sodomy.
Serdula moved to recuse the trial judge, alleging,
relevantly, that the judge had a "close
relationship" with the Cobb County District Attorney.
Following a hearing, the trial court denied the motion, and
after a bench trial, Serdula was found guilty of all the
counts with which he was charged. Serdula now appeals from
the trial court's denial of his amended motion for new
trial. Because we find that the trial court erred in its
denial of the motion to recuse, we vacate Serdula's
convictions and remand for further proceedings consistent
with this opinion.
trial court's determinations about whether recusal is
warranted under Uniform Superior Court Rule 25.3 are
questions of law which are subject to de novo review.
Mayor & Aldermen of City of Savannah v. Batson-Cook
Co., 291 Ga. 114, 119 (1) (728 S.E.2d 189) (2012).
viewed, in 2010, Serdula was indicted for multiple counts of
unlawful surveillance, child molestation, aggravated sodomy,
sexual assault against a person in custody, and aggravated
child molestation. That same year, the trial judge, Reuben M.
Green, campaigned for election to the Cobb County State
Court, but was appointed by the Governor to the Cobb County
Superior Court bench. The Cobb County District Attorney at that
time was Patrick H. Head. In December 2010, after this case
was assigned to Judge Green, Serdula filed a motion to
recuse, accompanied by a sworn affidavit. In the affidavit,
Serdula asserted that he had learned of the "close
relationship" between the trial judge and Head.
hearing on the motion, Serdula's trial counsel argued
that Judge Green and the district attorney had a "close
association, " and that an evidentiary hearing was
needed to inquire into the closeness of the relationship.
Serdula requested that the trial court refer the recusal
motion to another judge for disposition, but the trial court
denied the motion. In doing so, Judge Green stated he did not
believe that there was any reason why his impartiality might
be reasonably questioned, that he neither represented the
State in any aspect of Serdula's case nor participated in
the investigation of Serdula's case, and that he did not
have any special relationship with Head. Judge Green,
however, later admitted during a hearing on a recusal motion
in another case that Head had served as his campaign
treasurer for his ultimately abandoned 2010 State Court
campaign. Post v. State, 298 Ga. 241, 255
(3) (a) (779 S.E.2d 624) (2015).
a bench trial, the trial court found Serdula guilty of all
counts with which he was charged and sentenced him to life
imprisonment. Serdula now appeals from the denial of his
amended motion for new trial, arguing, inter alia, that the
trial judge erred in denying the motion to recuse.
his first enumeration of error, Serdula asserts that the
impartiality of the trial court might reasonably be
questioned in this case, and that reversal is warranted due
to the trial court's error in denying his motion to
recuse. We agree that the trial court erred in denying
Serdula's motion to recuse and vacate such order with
We first review the basic procedural and substantive rules
governing motions to recuse superior court judges in Georgia.
Rule 25.3 of the Uniform Superior Court Rules explains that
when the trial judge assigned to a case is presented with a
recusal motion and an accompanying affidavit, the judge shall
temporarily cease to act upon the merits of the matter and
determine immediately: (1) whether the motion is timely; (2)
whether the affidavit is legally sufficient; and (3) whether
the affidavit sets forth facts that, if proved, would warrant
the assigned judge's recusal from the case. If all three
criteria are met, another judge shall be assigned to hear the
motion to recuse. USCR 25.3. The decision about referring a
recusal motion for reassignment to another judge does not
involve an exercise of discretion by the judge whose recusal
(Citations omitted.) Post, supra, 298 Ga. at 243
initial matter, we question whether the averment of a
"close relationship" between Judge Green and Head
would have required assignment to another judge, because this
claim lacks objective facts regarding the relationship. See
Marlow v. State, 339 Ga.App. 790, 801 (4) (792
S.E.2d 712) (2016) (finding the affidavit insufficient to
warrant recusal where the appellants cited no evidence that
the judge had any contact with the victim or the extent of
the relationship at issue), cert. denied (Ga. June 5, 2017);
see also, e.g., Gude v. State, 289 Ga. 46, 49-50 (2)
(b) (709 S.E.2d 206) (2011) (motion insufficient where
appellant alleged that the judge had previously been an
employee of the district attorney and owed a debt of
gratitude to the district attorney for her prior employment).
"[a]ll parties before the court have the right to an
impartial judicial officer. The issue of judicial
disqualification can rise to a constitutional level since a
fair trial in a fair tribunal is a basic requirement of due
process." (Citations and punctuation omitted.)
Batson-Cook Co., supra, 291 Ga. at 114. Thus, even
where the facts in an affidavit do not warrant recusal if
assumed true, a judge still maintains an ethical duty to
recuse himself when he is independently aware of grounds to
do so. Gude, supra, 289 Ga. at 50 (3).
the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct, judges are to "act
at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in
the . . . impartiality of the judiciary." Rule 1.2 (A).
When deciding whether the assumed state of facts in the
affidavit would authorize an order requiring recusal, the
assigned judge is to be guided by Rule 2.11 of the Code.
Post, 298 Ga. at 244 (1). In accordance with Rule
2.11 (A),  judges "shall disqualify themselves
in any proceeding in which their impartiality might
reasonably be questioned, or in which: (1) [t]he judge has a
personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or a
party's lawyer . . . ." (Emphasis in original.) As
explained in the official commentary to this rule, even where
a judge does not think that there exists any basis for
disqualification, he "should disclose on the record, or
in open court, information that the court believes the
parties or their lawyers might consider relevant to the
question of disqualification." Rule 2.11 (A), Comment
; see Stinski v. State, 286 Ga. 839, 842 (3) (691
S.E.2d 854) (2010).
the Code of Judicial Conduct in mind, and given the Supreme
Court's extensive analysis in Post, we must
conclude that, even assuming, without deciding, the facial
insufficiency of Serdula's affidavit, the trial court
erred in its disposition of the recusal motion because it had
an independent duty to address recusal and make disclosures
based on Judge Green's personal knowledge of Head's
position with his campaign.
treasurer of a judge's campaign may have financial
reporting obligations even after the conclusion of
the election. Post, supra, 298 Ga. at 250 (2) (d).
As the Supreme Court explained in Post, "it is
not unusual for the financial components of a campaign to
continue well after the election components of the campaign
have ended, as the campaign pays off debts (which may require
additional fundraising), refunds or otherwise expends
contributions . . . ." Id., supra, 298 Ga. at
250 (2) (d). Thus, one could reasonably infer that Head
played "a significant role in managing the financial
activities of the judge's campaign, " Id. ...