The Judicial Ethics Forum (JEF)

An Academic Discussion of Judicial Ethics, Discipline & Disqualification

Judicial Ethics Stories and Scholarship to Ring in 2015

Posted by judicialethicsforum on Wednesday, December, 24, 2014

As J.E.F. nears its seventh year, we just wanted to wish our readers Happy Holidays and an Ethical New Year.  Although not of the typical Holiday variety, here are some stories and scholarship for your reading list:

(1) After well-known Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery was suspended and separately criticized by his colleagues on the high court, and chose to retire as a result, for sending pornographic emails to the state attorney general’s office employees (among others) on his personal email account, a new report from the court’s own special counsel has apparently cleared the other justices of any involvement in the email scandal.  The debacle is another good reason to mind the appearance of impropriety in all communications and to treat email messages, even ones sent from personal accounts, as possible front page news.

(2) Professor Alain Roussy explores some of the many stirred issues in the now long-running controversy involving Canadian Justice Lori Douglas (whose lawyer husband posted nude pictures of her online and sent copies of the pictures to a client who in turn sued and eventually filed a judicial conduct complaint).  Prof. Roussy’s essay is forthcoming in the great international journal, Legal Ethics:

The Douglas Inquiry, involving allegations against Manitoba’s Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas, is the Canadian judicial ethics story that keeps on giving. The allegations all stem from the fact that ACJ Douglas’ husband posted nude photos of her on the internet back in 2002-2003, before her appointment to the bench. There have been a number of recent developments in this matter and many interesting legal questions are at play. These include: the role of the Attorney General of Canada in applications for judicial review of decisions made by the Inquiry Committee of the Canadian Judicial Council, the jurisdiction of the Federal Court to hear such applications, the existence (or not) of a solicitor-client relationship between Independent Counsel (counsel specifically hired to impartially present the case to the Inquiry Committee) and the Canadian Judicial Council, and the appropriate roles of Independent Counsel and Committee Counsel. Clearly, the Douglas inquiry has shone the light on the inadequate complaint-resolution processes of the Canadian Judicial Council.

Alain Roussy, The Continuing Saga of the Douglas Inquiry, Legal Ethics (forthcoming).

(3) Judicial ethics expert Steve Lubet published an interesting, entertaining, and brief reaction to Justice Scalia’s apparent acceptance of torture techniques.  Prof. Lubet points out the practical problems and logical fallacies with Justice Scalia’s infatuation with the fictional agent Jack Bauer on the television series 24 and Justice Scalia’s twist on, and stretch of, the Trolley Car thought experiment.

(4) Two Prague professors (at Charles University) just posted this interesting study on judicial discipline in the Czech Republic:

The article analyses all judicial disciplinary decisions issued by the disciplinary court in the Czech Republic since 2008, when the reform of the disciplinary court took place. The authors, after introducing the Czech disciplinary system, describe the conduct of the judges which was found inappropriate by the court. In the second part of the paper they offer analysis of the cases tried by the disciplinary court in which the court found no substantial breach of the standards of professional judicial ethics or which were suspended before a decision was reached. In the last part of the paper, the authors summarise their findings, offer their interpretation and place their findings in a broader Czech context. The article thus offers an overview of the most recent practice of the Czech disciplinary court, which may be used for international comparison with the judicial disciplinary practice in other states.

Tomas Friedel & Michal Urban, Are Czech Judges Angels or Devils? The Practice of Judicial Disciplinary Authorities in the Czech Republic (2014).

Looking forward to 2015 and the always interesting and evolving (but occasionally degenerating) world of judicial ethics.  Thank you.

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