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Policing federal judges Re “ Little public airing of abusive judges: Reforms may not fix the problem“: The second installment of the “Policing the Bench” series could be resubtitled “Reforms will not fix the problem” of abusive judges who go undisciplined. Indeed, the revised rules for processing misconduct and disability complaints against federal judges will change nothing with respect to the current rules they are supposed to replace. Yet they will in all likelihood be adopted on March 11 by the Judicial Conference of the United States, which is the highest policy-making all-judge body of the federal judiciary, presided over by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. For one thing, proposed Rule 2(b) provides that the revised rules are mandatory unless there is a finding of “exceptional circumstances,” which is an easy finding to make since no two cases are ever identical. This means that in practice the rules will be optional. Hence, they will allow the circuits and the U.S. courts subject to them to apply the rules capriciously and inconsistently so as to exempt their abusive peers from any discipline. The judges will also continue to do exactly what they do now because the revised rules: • Do not change the procedure or participants in the judicial complaint system. • Do not change the judge-protective secrecy that turns a filed judicial complaint into a nonpublic document and prohibits even the name of the judge to be written on the envelope of the complaint. • Do not change the lack of a requirement for the judge to respond to the complaint, so he or she does not even have to bother reading it, nor do they make any response filed by a judge available to the complainant. • Do not change the scope of discretion to dispose of complaints, which, in the period 1997-2006, resulted in only seven appointments of a special investigative committee and nine disciplinary actions out of 7,462 complaints filed. • Do not change the policy of no public access to special committee reports. • Do not change the review-seeking discretion of circuit councils, which the councils have abused by not submitting their decisions to the Judicial Conference Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability, thereby giving rise to the extraordinary fact that in the 28 years since the passage of the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980, the committee has issued only 18 decisions. • Do not change the indifference of the Judicial Conference, the last appellate body under the complaint procedure, which in the act’s 28-year history has not reviewed any decision of a judicial council or the committee, let alone issue a single opinion, if only to resolve a dispute about the scope of its own jurisdiction. • Do not change the unlawful practice of preventing complainants from appealing to the Judicial Conference despite the act’s clear provision allowing “A complainant or judge aggrieved by an action of [a] judicial council” to do so. Judges judging judges will continue to protect their abusive peers through what they know the revised rules are: a sham! More information is available here. Richard Cordero Brooklyn, N.Y.

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