If you want to know if a federal judge has been sanctioned for judicial misconduct, soon all you’ll need to do is log onto the court’s website.
Information about federal judicial misconduct sanctions – including the judges’ names – will soon be just a click away under new rules approved yesterday by the U.S. Judicial Conference.
The rules also clarify the obligation of circuit chief judges to “identify a complaint,” initiating an investigation where no formal complaint has been filed. The new rules also allow the Conference’s Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability to review complaint dismissals by judicial councils to determine whether special investigating committees should be appointed.
The rules come in response to a 2006 report by a special committee chaired by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer that identified problems with judges’ the handling of high-profile complaints against their colleagues.
“I am pleased the Judicial Conference has taken action on all of the recommendations of the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act Study Committee,” Justice Breyer said in a statement after the rules’ adoption. “The implementation of these new rules is a very good thing for the federal Judiciary and for those who use the federal courts.”
Not all information about judicial conduct complaints will be public. Under the rules, information about complaints that have been dismissed – including the names of the judges and the claimants – will remain confidential. Federal law prohibits disclosure of some aspects of the judicial conduct review process.
The full text of the rules, with comments, can be found here on the Judicial Conference’s website.