A federal judge sued the federal judiciary’s policymaking body Thursday, alleging its panel on disabilities violated his Fifth Amendment rights by ordering him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
U.S. District Judge John Adams of Northern District of Ohio filed the lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C., against the Judicial Conference of the United States’ Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability and its chair, Judge Anthony Scirica of the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The Sixth Circuit’s Judicial Council and its chief, Judge R. Guy Cole Jr., are also defendants. Adams claims the committee and council violated his constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment by ordering him to submit to a mental health evaluation last month.
The committee, which reviews orders from circuit judicial councils, upheld the Sixth Circuit Judicial Council’s finding that Adams engaged in misconduct by refusing to undergo a mental health examination as part of an investigation into his behavior after he threatened to hold a magistrate judge in contempt for missing a deadline. Adams also claims the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act, the law under which the Judicial Council derives its authority to issue such an order, is unconstitutionally vague.
“Plaintiff has an obvious liberty interest in the outcome of any misconduct or disability proceeding against him,” the complaint said. “He also has an obvious liberty interest in not being subjected to an involuntary psychiatric examination and a further liberty interest in not being stigmatized as having committed misconduct and having his mental health questioned, as well as having his status as an Article III judge altered by ordering him to undergo a compelled psychiatric evaluation and subjecting him to the continuing oversight of the [special investigative committee].”
The circuit executive for the Sixth Circuit, Clarence Maddox, declined to comment on the lawsuit. A request for comment from the Judicial Conference was not immediately returned. Adams is represented by Judicial Watch Inc., a D.C.-based conservative watchdog organization.
The lawsuit is the latest in a controversial period for Adams at the courthouse in Akron, Ohio. He’s been under investigation by the court’s disciplinary body since 2013 after he issued a show cause order to a magistrate judge who missed a deadline to issue a decision in a Social Security appeal. The judge has also been involved in other controversies, such as being involuntarily removed from a criminal case over which he presided because the defendant said he did illegal drugs with Adams’ brother and nephew, according to reporting from Cleveland.com.
In February 2013, four other judges filed a complaint against Adams, claiming the show cause order constituted “an extreme, unwarranted and unjustified abuse of judicial discretion.” Sixth Circuit Judge Danny Boggs appointed a special investigative committee to handle the complaint.
The investigative committee asked Adams to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, and the judge declined. He said he would only agree if he had input on who the mental health professionals were, among other conditions. He also underwent two examinations on his own, with two different psychiatrists of his own choosing, the complaint said. The committee excluded those psychiatrists’ testimony during a hearing.
Eventually, in 2016, the Judicial Council issued an order barring Adams from taking on new cases for two years, and allowed the investigative committee to monitor his behavior for two years. The order also indicated that should Adams continue to refuse a mental health evaluation, it would request he retire voluntarily. In August this year, the Judicial Conference panel upheld that order, in a matter of first impression, though it vacated the two-year ban on new cases for Adams.
In addition to Fifth Amendment claims, Adams claims that a compelled psychiatric exam is equivalent to a search and seizure, and therefore would also violate his Fourth Amendment rights. He also claims the orders, “constitute an attempt to remove [him] from office” in violation of the Constitution’s separation of powers principle, among other charges.