Avoiding Judicial Discipline
Over the past several years, several high-profile complaints have been levied against Article III judges alleging improper conduct. Many of these complaints, however, were dismissed without investigation after the judge in question removed themselves from the jurisdiction of the circuit’s judicial council—oftentimes through retirement and once through elevation to the Supreme Court. When judges—the literal arbiters of justice within American society—are able to elude oversight of their own potential misconduct, it puts the legitimacy of the judiciary and the rule of law in jeopardy. This Essay argues that it is imperative that mechanisms are adopted that will ensure investigations into judicial misconduct are completed, even in the event that the individual is no longer serving as a judge in the circuit where the complaint has been filed. This Essay suggests two reforms. First, the adoption of customs that will refer any short-circuited investigation to the state bar and to Congress for additional inquiry. Second, the expansion of the judicial councils’ authority to investigate complaints so as to address the jurisdictional limitations that currently allow judges to circumvent attempts at judicial oversight over allegations of misconduct. The status quo that incentivizes avoiding judicial discipline must be reformed into one that allows for thorough and fair investigation of these important matters of public concern.