Page 5 - Rules Governing Judicial Misconduct

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Preface to the Rules
On November 2, 2002, section 372(c) of title 28, United States Code, was replaced by a new chapter 16 of title 28
by the Judicial Improvements Act of 2002, Complaints Against Judges and Judicial Discipline (hereinafter referred to as
"the Act" or "chapter 16") (28 U.S.C. §§ 351-64), Public Law 107-273, § 11042(a). The Act was reorganized as a separate
chapter in order to "publicize its existence and . . . facilitate its use." H.R. R
. N
. 107-459, 107th Cong., 2d Sess., at 8
(May 14, 2002). Section 11043(f) of the Act made conforming amendments to 38 U.S.C. § 7253(g). In addition, 38 U.S.C.
§ 7299 was added by Public Law No. 106-117, § 1024(a) on November 30, 1999, to address the subject of restrictions on
the activities of recall-eligible judges serving and not serving in recall status. Amendments to these Rules make them
consistent with those statutory changes.
Chapter 16, made applicable to the Court by virtue of section 7253(g)(1), provides a way for any person to complain
about a federal judge who the person believes "has engaged in conduct prejudicial to the effective and expeditious
administration of the business of the courts" or "is unable to discharge all the duties of office by reason of mental or physical
disability." 28 U.S.C. § 351(a). It also permits the judicial councils of the federal circuits and other affected federal courts
to adopt Rules for the consideration of these complaints. These Rules have been adopted under that authority.
Complaints are filed with the Clerk of the Court on a form that has been developed for that purpose. Each complaint
is referred first to the Chief Judge of the Court, who decides whether the complaint raises an issue that should be
investigated. (If the complaint is about the Chief Judge, another judge will make this decision; see Rule 18(f).)
The Chief Judge will dismiss a complaint if it does not properly raise a problem that is appropriate for consideration
under chapter 16. The Chief Judge will also dismiss a complaint if, after a limited inquiry, the Chief Judge concludes that
the allegations in the complaint lack any factual foundation or are conclusively refuted. The Chief Judge may also conclude
the complaint proceeding if the problem has been corrected or if intervening events have made action on the complaint
unnecessary. If the complaint is not disposed of in either of these two ways, the Chief Judge will appoint a special
committee to investigate the complaint. The special committee makes its report to the judicial council of the Court, which
decides what action, if any, should be taken. The judicial council is a body that consists of all judges of the Court except
for any judge whose actions are the subject of a pending investigation or subsequent proceeding pursuant to a complaint
under these Rules. Finally, recourse may be had to the Judicial Conference of the United States.
This Preface and the ensuing Rules, adopted by the Court on August 27, 2004, as final Rules, were initially derived
from the Illustrative Rules Governing Complaints of Judicial Misconduct and Disability, proposed by the Judicial
Conference of the United States Committee to Review Circuit Council Conduct and Disability Orders, and have been
amended to comply with the changes made by Public Law 107-273. The ensuing Rules replace the Rules adopted on
January 27, 1993, and promulgated on February 3, 1993.
Chapter I: Filing a Complaint
(a) Purpose of the procedure.
The purpose of the complaint procedure is to improve the administration of justice in the
Court by taking action when judges have engaged in conduct that does not meet the standards expected of federal
judicial officers or are physically or mentally unable to perform their duties. The law's purpose is essentially forward-
looking and not punitive. The emphasis is on correction of conditions that interfere with the proper administration of
justice in the Court.
(b) What may be complained about.
The law authorizes complaints about judges who have "engaged in conduct
prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts" or who are "unable to discharge
all the duties of office by reason of mental or physical disability". See also Rule 20. A judge who is the subject of a
complaint under these Rules is referred to herein as the "judge complained about".
"Conduct prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts" is not a precise term.
It applies only to the conduct of a judge during active status, or of a retired recall-eligible judge during a period when
that judge is serving in recall status (
38 U.S.C. § 7299), and includes such things as use of the judge's office to
obtain special treatment for friends and relatives, acceptance of bribes, improperly engaging in discussions about cases