Along with lifetime tenure and broad legal authority, federal judges decide for themselves whether they should step down from a case because of biases that might influence the outcome. Some in the legal community and lawmakers on Capitol Hill are now examining whether to take that power away.

“Judges might not be the best people to determine whether they should recuse themselves from cases,” said U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat who recently held a congressional hearing on the issue. “The failure of a judge to recuse himself or herself where the outcome is a miscarriage of justice should be taken very seriously.”