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Judicial Misconduct

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What is Judicial Misconduct?

Judicial misconduct is a serious deviation from the accepted practice of a judge in the judicial arena.  Some examples include:

  • Giving special treatment to friends or relatives,
  • Placing their personal schedule before those of the parties,
  • Accepting bribes, or
  • Improperly discussing a case with an attorney.

28 USC §§ 351 - 364 allows any person to complain about a federal judge who they believe has committed judicial misconduct.

How Can Judges Break the Law Inside the Court Room?

There are some ways a corrupt judge may abuse the law he or she is suppose to uphold:

  • Lying under oath. Remember a judge is always under oath in the courtroom,
  • Citing invalid laws or precedents. This is extremely hard to catch if you’re not prepared to discuss these topics,
  • Ignoring certain laws or precedents. This is more unusual because a judge typically can’t ignore a law without explaining why. The judge would have to break two rules in order to accomplish this one.

Can I Ask A Judge To Recuse Himself If I Believe He Is Biased?

Recusal is a request for the judge of the presiding case to excuse himself from the case so that a new judge may be chosen. Although an attorney or pro se litigant may ask a judge to recuse himself from the case, there should be substantial evidence for judicial conflict of interest because the judge in question has the right to sustain or dismiss the motion. The recusal motion may have to be appealed when the trial is over.

How Can I Prove Judicial Misconduct?

Judicial misconduct can be extremely hard to prove if you don’t know all the rules. This can especially difficult for average citizens because the rules that must be watched are procedural rules which, frankly, most people find tedious to learn.

Being familiar with these rules, however, can help prove judicial misconduct because a corrupt judge has to brush aside all motions in order to reach the corrupt judge’s predetermined outcome. The motions, however, are there to ensure fairness by allowing a party to ask for additional hearings or other outside factors.

Other helpful tips:

  • Take note of everything in writing
  • Always ask for a court reporter
  • Bring court watchers to all hearings
  • Leave as much of a paper trail as possible

When Can I Complain About Judicial Misconduct?

Anybody is allowed to complain about a federal judge under 28 USC §§ 351 - 364, if the federal judge:

  1. Engaged in conduct that is damaging to the effective administration of a court, or
  2. Becomes unable to discharge their duties because of a mental or physical disability.

Excluded from the right to complain about judicial misconduct is the poor or wrong decision making of a federal judge.  The remedy for such a situation lies in the right to an appeal, not complaining about judicial misconduct.

How Does a Judicial Misconduct Complaint Work?

As already stated above, a complaint for judicial misconduct begins with an individual who believes that a federal judge has seriously deviated from their duties.  Such complaints follow a general step-by-step process.

  1. The complaining individual must obtain the pre-established form for complaining about judicial misconduct from the clerk of the court.
  2. The complaint is filed with the clerk of the court and given to the Chief Judge of that district.
  3. The Chief Judge reviews the complaint, and determines if it should be dismissed or further investigated.
  4. If the Chief Judge thinks the complaint needs more investigation, he or she will appoint a special committee to investigate the complaint.
  5. The special committee will take the findings of their investigation and submit a report to a pre-established Judicial Council in the district.
  6. Finally, the Judicial Council will make the decision about what steps should be taken to remedy any judicial misconduct.

Do I Need an Attorney to File a Judicial Misconduct Complaint?

If you think you have been subjected to judicial misconduct, it is recommended that you contact an attorney because complaining about judicial misconduct can quickly become very complicated.  Only an attorney can adequately guide you through the process of complaining about judicial misconduct, explain the relevant issues, and help defend your rights or find an alternative remedy for you situation.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 10-20-2017 12:06 AM PDT

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