Judicial ethics is a curiously under-, and in many ways un-, explored field. It could not be more important, however. On its most important level (perhaps arguably), compare Brown v. Board of Education (good?), with Korematsu v. United States (evil?). Compare as well Buck v. Bell (Holmes, J.) (upholding forced sterilization law on the basis of its perceived—now debunked—societal good), with Lawrence v. Texas. Granted, judicial ethics is more commonly thought of by the more (seemingly) mundane rules embodied in (more or less from state to state) the Model Codes of Judicial Conduct, but these too are fascinating. Take, as one randomly picked illustration, the judge who, during a death penalty case, allegedly engaged in an undisclosed romantic relationship with the prosecutor, yet the defendant, Charles Hood, received the death penalty.
There is more. Judicial ethics is inextricably tied to enforcement, namely, judicial discipline, and equally tied to the propriety to sit, judicial disqualification/recusal. This Forum, the first of its kind, takes on all three subjects — judicial ethics, discipline, and disqualification.
Fortunately, judicial ethics offers us much room in which to disagree, respectfully of course. These disagreements can range from the seemingly trivial (e.g., stock ownership) to the seemingly world-changing (e.g., Bush v. Gore). Let’s discuss.