The U.S. Judicial Conference has adopted the first-ever binding nationwide procedures for handling complaints of judicial misconduct, reports Legal Times. The policy-making body of the federal judiciary’s new rules are aimed at ending gaps and inconsistencies between judicial circuits in how complaints of judicial wrongdoing are handled. “There were no standards,” said Judge Ralph Winter of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, chairman of the committee that devised the rules. and will oversee how they are implemented.
Yesterday’s adopton of the rules marks a major milestone in the judiciary’s efforts to improve its self-regulation, launched in 2004 by late Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Members of Congress were pressuring the judiciary to increase consistency and transparency, some even threatening to pass a law creating an inspector general who would investigate complaints against judges. Up to 800 complaints are filed against judges annually; only one in 100 alleges something that “requires further inquiry,” Winter said. He added that, “Judges always leave half their customers unsatisfied,” prompting some on the losing side to allege judicial misconduct. He said the merits of a decision — whether it was right or wrong — never could form the basis of a misconduct investigation against the judge. An improper motive that led to the decision could be investigated.