The Judicial Ethics Forum (JEF)

An Academic Discussion of Judicial Ethics, Discipline & Disqualification

Archive for September, 2008

The Return of Impeachment

Posted by kswisher on Thursday, September, 18, 2008

While it has been nearly twenty years since the last federal judge was fully impeached, the two-decades-long (nearly) unblemished record may be shattered soon.  District Judge Thomas Porteous (E.D. La.) has been publicly censured for (among other accusations) soliciting money from attorneys appearing before him and filing false financial disclosure forms.  To read the Judicial Council of the Fifth Circuit’s underlying Order and Public Reprimand, click here (citing violations of 28 U.S.C. § 455 and Canons 1, 2A, 3C(1), 3D, 5C(1), (4), and (6) of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges).  The Council even opines that Judge Porteous committed several federal crimes (such as honest-services mail fraud), in addition to the ethical violations.  The House Judiciary Committee has just formed a task force to consider the nuclear impeachment option.  

This is big.  The last federal judge impeached was former District Judge Alcee Hastings (S.D. Fla.) for allegedly accepting a bribe for lenient sentencing and then committing perjury.  Mr. Hastings then became a Congressman.   

At least one nagging question: If the reports are accurate that Judge Porteous has twice offered to retire in light of his struggles, is impeachment necessary?  To deter other federal judges from committing felonies?  To punish or judicially incapacitate the Judge?  Would not retirement plus criminal prosecution (if warranted) be sufficient?           

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Posted in Canon 1, Canon 2, Canon 3, Canon 5 | Leave a Comment »

Ninth Circuit Judicial Council Investigation

Posted by kswisher on Wednesday, September, 10, 2008

The ABA Journal just ran a rather interesting, feature-length story concerning a judicial ethics inquiry involving Judge Manny Real (C.D. Cal.).  The Ninth Circuit Judicial Council is reportedly reviewing dozens of his cases for alleged errors of adjudication and problems of temperament.  For the full article, click here.  For my own views of whether bad criminal law adjudications warrant discipline (they can, and often do), click here.  (Because others undoubtedly know more about the judicial ethics implications of Judge Real’s saga — which apparently has a history of at least several years — please comment below for our collective benefit.)      

Posted in Canon 2, Canon 3, Judicial Ethics Generally | Leave a Comment »