Only Congress can remove a federal judge from office, and that’s happened only eight times in the nation’s history, so it’s unlikely an Alabama federal judge arrested Aug. 10 on a spousal abuse charge will lose his seat. But observers of a federal judicial discipline process handled by the courts say lesser sanctions can still pack a symbolically powerful punch.

“The days of looking the other way about allegations of misconduct, those are over,” said Arthur Hellman, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who has testified before Congress on matters of federal judicial discipline. He said U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller, who was arrested at the downtown Atlanta Ritz-Carlton, could receive a public reprimand from the judicial council of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

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