Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New Federal Rules for Judicial Misconduct, Disability

The Judicial Conference of the United States today [March 11] approved the first-ever binding, nationwide set of rules for handling conduct and disability complaints against federal judges, bringing consistency and rigor to the process.

The new rules, which take effect in 30 days, are authorized under a statute (the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980) that allows any person to file a complaint alleging that a federal judge has engaged in conduct "prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts." The statute also permits the filing of a complaint relating to a judge's inability to perform his or her duties because of "mental or physical disability."

The Conference approved these rules in response to recommendations made in September 2006 by a special committee chaired by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer (the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act Study Committee). The rules cover such topics as complaint initiation and review, venue, confidentiality and publication, remedies, the conduct of investigations, and the rights and roles of participants in the process.
U.S. Courts News Release, March 11, 2008.

Before these binding rules, the national body had illustrative rules that served as models for rules in the different circuits.

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