The Judicial Conference of the United States, Tuesday, approved the first-ever set of binding, nationwide rules governing the handling of conduct and disability complaints against federal judges. The rules mark a major milestone in the judiciary’s efforts to improve its self-regulation, first launched by the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist four years ago in response to criticism from Congress about the way in which the Judicial Conduct & Disability Act (1980) was being implemented. ( Release ) (See investigative committee’s report )
“The new rules,” the Conference said in its news release, “seek to promote greater public awareness of the complaint process. Under the rules, final orders on complaints against federal judges must be made public – for example, by placing those orders on the court’s public website, and all courts of appeal now have posted complaint-filing instructions on them.
“The rules also make clear, however, that some aspects of the judicial conduct & disability complaint process remain confidential, as required by federal law. A final order dismissing a complaint will not identify a complainant or the judge subject of the complaint. In most cases, a final order sanctioning a judge will identify the judge.”
Judge Ralph Winter, who chaired the committee that devised the rules and will oversee their implementation, told Law.com that the new rules provide “a step-by-step analysis of how and when complaints of how and when complaints of misconduct should be investigated, resolved and made public…. They tell chief judges when they can initiate a proceeding, and when they must – there’s been a great deal of uncertainty on that point..”
While the Rules for Judicial Conduct &Disability go effect on April 10th., the Conference has also issued proposed revisions to the Code of Conduct for United States Judges and will be entertaining public comment on those until April 18, 2008. ( Release )
The Code of Conduct was initially adopted by the Judicial Conference in 1973 based on an ABA model, but that reflected a number of modifications necessary to adapt provisions of the federal judiciary. Substantial revisions were made in 1992, and, last year, prompted by the ABA’s adoption of its newly revised model in February, a comprehensive review of the Code was again undertaken.
Comments may be submitted by e-mail to the Committee on Codes of Conduct at firstname.lastname@example.org
Those commenting must identify themselves and their institutional affiliation, if any.
Current Code of Conduct with Revisions