Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Good news/ bad news about the Federal bench

It's a classic good news/bad news kind of story.

The good news, according John Flynn Rooney's story in this evening's Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, is that, effective April 10, there will be a uniform set of procedures in place for lodging complaints of misconduct or disability against federal judges.

The bad news, obviously, is that the U.S. Judicial Conference thought it was necessary.

The Judicial Conference enacted the new rules in response to a September 2006 report from the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act Study Committee (chaired by Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer). Congress passed the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act in 1980; it is presently codified at 28 U.S.C.A. §351, et seq. A press release issued by the Judicial Conference about the new rules may be found here. The new rules themselves may be found at this link.

Rooney's article this evening quotes Seventh Circuit executive Collins T. Fitzpatrick as saying the new rules are similar to the rules that the Chicago-based court has been following for years. In his experience, Fitzpatrick said, "most of the complaints are filed by unhappy litigants." The complaints "don't amount to judicial misconduct or disability."

Federal courts in other parts of the country may not have been so fortunate. Allegations concerning a pending investigation into the conduct of the Chief Judge of the District of Colorado were recently aired on the generally irreverent blog, Above the Law.

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