SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
Page 1 TOP OF DOC76383 PDF
OPERATIONS OF FEDERAL
JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT STATUTES
SUBCOMMITTEE ON COURTS, THE INTERNET,
AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SEVENTH CONGRESS
NOVEMBER 29, 2001
Serial No. 45
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPrinted for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary
Available via the World Wide Web: http://www.house.gov/judiciary
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, JR., WISCONSIN, Chairman
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
GEORGE W. GEKAS, Pennsylvania
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
LAMAR SMITH, Texas
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
ED BRYANT, Tennessee
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
BOB BARR, Georgia
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
LINDSEY O. GRAHAM, South Carolina
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
MARK GREEN, Wisconsin
RIC KELLER, Florida
DARRELL E. ISSA, California
MELISSA A. HART, Pennsylvania
JEFF FLAKE, Arizona
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCMIKE PENCE, Indiana
JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
BARNEY FRANK, Massachusetts
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
RICK BOUCHER, Virginia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
ZOE LOFGREN, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MAXINE WATERS, California
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
TAMMY BALDWIN, Wisconsin
ANTHONY D. WEINER, New York
ADAM B. SCHIFF, California
PHILIP G. KIKO, Chief of Staff-General Counsel
PERRY H. APELBAUM, Minority Chief Counsel
Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina, Chairman
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCELTON GALLEGLY, California
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia, Vice Chair
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
LINDSEY O. GRAHAM, South Carolina
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
RIC KELLER, Florida
DARRELL E. ISSA, California
MELISSA A. HART, Pennsylvania
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
RICK BOUCHER, Virginia
ZOE LOFGREN, California
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
MAXINE WATERS, California
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
TAMMY BALDWIN, Wisconsin
ANTHONY D. WEINER, New York
BLAINE MERRITT, Chief Counsel
DEBRA ROSE, Counsel
CHRIS J. KATOPIS, Counsel
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCALEC FRENCH, Minority Counsel
C O N T E N T S
NOVEMBER 29, 2001
The Honorable Howard Coble, a Representative in Congress From the State of North Carolina, and Chairman, Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property
The Honorable Howard L. Berman, a Representative in Congress From the State of California, and Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property
Mr. Douglas T. Kendall, Executive Director, Community Rights Counsel
Mr. Arthur D. Hellman, Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh School of Law
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCMr. Michael J. Remington, Partner, Drinker Biddle & Reath L.L.P.
The Honorable William L. Osteen, U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of North Carolina
Material submitted for the record
OPERATIONS OF FEDERAL JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT STATUTES
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2001
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet,
and Intellectual Property,
Committee on the Judiciary,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10 a.m., in Room 2141, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Howard Coble [Chairman of the Subcommittee] presiding.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. COBLE. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the hearing this morning.
I am advised that there will imminently be a journal vote, in which case we will have to disembark and head for the floor. And I think there will be a new Member that will be sworn in, as well, so this may involve about 15 to 20 minutes. So if you all will rest easy while we are awaybut Howard and I have decided to go ahead and give our opening statements, so that will at least save some time.
Today, we will review the operation of those mechanisms designed to compel ethical behavior among Federal judges. I emphasize to our witnesses that this hearing was not scheduled in response to individual misconduct cases brought to the attention of the Subcommittee. Rather, I firmly believe that the Subcommittee is charged by the Constitution and the House rules to conduct vigorous oversight on a regular basis.
On the whole, I believe that the Federal judiciary is functioning well, but no branch of governmentand I think we will all agreeis immune from evaluation. The point of this hearing is to take the ethical temperature of the Third Branch and determine what, if anything, should be done to improve upon its current record. Such an exercise, I believe, will assist in improving the administration of the United States courts and also instill greater public confidence in their operations.
At this point, let me digress a moment, if I may, to caution our witnesses and our Subcommittee Members to try to stick to the subject matter at hand. More specifically, we have not convened this morning to debate competing judicial philosophies or schools of thought, nor are we meeting to critique the merits of individual district or circuit decisions that touch upon hot-button issues. Health care environment, organized labor or the workings of the American industry are topics that I think should not be emphasized today. I am not very interested in examining the reading habits or seminar attendance practices of life-tenured judges who are desirous of becoming better educated or informed. These are all good hearing topics, but I think are not the focus of the hearing today.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
We should primarily concern ourselves with determining whether the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act, along with the relevant recusal statutes, are working as intended.
To conclude, while each of us is possessed of unique life experiences and personal political convictions, I believe we are all united in our desire this morning to support a vibrant, strong and independent judiciary.
Finally, I personally wish to thank everyone on the panel for his patience in working around the evolving Subcommittee schedule in preparation for this hearing. Folks, as you all know, since September 11, things have had an irregular turn, scheduling and otherwise, and I appreciate your flexibility and also appreciate the Members of the Subcommittee for your flexibility.
I am now pleased to recognize my good friend, the distinguished gentleman from California, the Ranking Member, Mr. Berman, for his opening statement, after which we will adjourn to the floor and return soon.
Mr. BERMAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Given the accuracy of your prediction about a vote coming at this point, I was wondering if you can tell me when we are adjourning for the year.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I thank you for calling this hearing on Federal judicial misconduct statutes. This hearing provides us the opportunity to discuss and evaluate the utility of these statutes and to find ways in which we can improve either the statutes themselves or the methods and frequency with which they are employed.
I would like to thank all of our witnesses for appearing today. Among the four witnesses, we have expert knowledge of the Federal courts, judicial ethics and the laws and commissions that govern judicial discipline and removal. I look forward to their input on this issue. I particularly welcome Mike Remington, who for many years gave his expertise on this side of the podium and now is appearing before us as a witness for the first time.
I have no doubt that many of our Nation's fine judges could impartially and fairly decide a case involving a company in which they hold stock. Likewise, many are highly capable of deciding a case solely on the facts presented while subsuming strong personal opinions on the issues presented or ignoring ex parte communications. Nonetheless, we must ensure that the procedures for reporting and evaluating potential conflicts are working smoothly. It is also important for us to determine how thoroughly complaints are treated within the judiciary if a concern is raised by a litigant.
Our laws must, to the extent possible, guarantee complete judicial impartiality while still preserving the independence of the judicial branch through self-regulation. Today's hearings should inform us on the success of the judicial misconduct statutes in achieving this goal.
This hearing will be useful in raising awareness of these issues and will help us to determine if and where additional legislation is necessary to prevent any Federal judicial misconduct or lessen the appearance of such misconduct.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. Chairman, I take your point that this is not a hearing about judicial decisions. While I might be tempted to view a decision that I don't like as judicial misconduct, I think that is probably not the standard that our Founding Fathers envisioned andand so, to that extent, I concur with your admonition.
I yield back, Mr. Chairman, and look forward to hearing the witnesses when we come back from our vote.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you, Mr. Berman. And as to my prediction for adjournment, I will take that under advisement and be back to you.
Folks, you all rest easy for about 10 minutes and we will return.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you, folks, for your indulgence; and we will proceed.
I regretas you know, we have two new Members that have been assigned to our Subcommittee since we last met, and I wanted to recognize each of them, but neither is present. And I regret that particularly, Professor Hellman, because the gentlelady from Pennsylvania wanted to introduce you, but I will recognize her when she gets here. I am sure she will be here later.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are glad to have Arthur Hellman back with us, who has been here before. Professor Hellman teaches courses in Federal court civil procedure and constitutional law at the Pittsburgh School of Law. Earlier this year, Professor Hellman was designated as one of the school's first distinguished faculty scholars. He has participated in numerous institutional enterprises aimed at improving the administration of justice, both State and Federal. He served as the Chair of the Civil Justice Reform Committee of the American Judicature Society, and he supervised a distinguished group of legal scholars and political scientists in analyzing the innovations of the Ninth Circuit and its Court of Appeals. From 1999 through 2001, he served on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Evaluation Committee.
Professor Hellman received his B.A. magna cum laude from Harvard University and his J.D. from the Yale School of Law. He has been a member of the faculty of the Pittsburgh School of Law since 1975.
Mr. Michael J. Remington, who was acknowledged by Mr. Bermanand I will reiterate what he said, Mike; it is good to have you back on the Hill.
Mr. Remington is a partner in the law firm of Drinker, Biddle & Reath, where he specializes in intellectual property law, court reform, government relations and lobbying. Prior to entering private practice, Mr. Remington held high-level positions in the three branches of the Federal Government. Most impressively, for a total of 13 years he was chief counsel of this very Subcommittee.
We have expanded our horizons jurisdiction-wise, Mike, since then, but it is good to have you back nonetheless.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In the judicial branch, Mr. Remington served as law clerk to U.S. District Judge John W. Reynolds and deputy legislative affairs officer to the Judicial Conference of the United States under Chief Justice Warren Burger.
In the executive branch, he was a prosecutor in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where he specialized in criminal appeals. Finally, Mr. Remington is the former director of the National Commission of Judicial Discipline and Removal, an entity established by Congress to study and report to the President, Chief Justice and Congress on issues relating to judicial misconduct and impeachment.
A former Fulbright Scholar in Paris and Peace Corps volunteer in Africa, Mr. Remington is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, where he received his law degree. He is admitted to practice in the State of Wisconsin and the District of Columbia as a member of the Intellectual Property Section of the American Bar Association.
Now I apologize to some of you all for the lengthy introductions. Mr. Berman and I know all about these people that many of you in the audience may not, and I think, for your information, this is in order.
Mr. Doug Kendall, who is the founder and executive director of a public interest law firm that helps State and local governments defend environmental and land use protections. Mr. Kendall represents his clients in State and Federal appellate courts around the country.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Kendall is the co-author of the ''Takings Litigation Handbook,'' a comprehensive guide to defending land use protection. He has written numerous CRC reports, law journal articles and opinion pieces in major papers. Mr. Kendall received his B.A. in economics with high distinction from the University of Virginia in 1986 and his J.D. From the University of Virginia School of Law in 1992.
Now I am going to take a little bit of liberty from the Chair in recognizing our final witness. Each of us represents districts where a very select group of people stand out, not only in their respective professions, but generally in life, and such is applicable to Judge Osteen. Judge Osteen is presently serving as district court judge for the Middle District of North Carolina. Was appointed by President Bush in June 1991. He is a past member of the North Carolina State legislature, Chair of the Guilford County Economic Opportunity Council, member of the Greensboro, North Carolina, City Zoning Commission, and member and Chair of the Greensboro City Human Relations Commission.
From 1969 to 1974, he was U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina. And in that capacity, I have to sayI am proud to say, he was my boss. He received his B.A. degree in economics from Guilford College and his LL.B. From the University of North Carolina School of Law 3 years later.
We are pleased, as well, to have Mrs. Osteen in the audience.
It is good to have all of you with us. We have written statements from all of the witnesses on the panel, which I ask unanimous consent to submit to the record in their entirety.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Before we begin, I am going to take some more liberty. I picked up today's edition of Roll Call and on the front page was embezzled or embodied or portrayedstrike thatembodied and portrayed a very handsome gentleman. And that was a very fine article, Mr. Delahunt. And I commend you for that.
Gentlemen, as you all know, you have been advised that we would like you to confine your testimony to the 5-minute rule. Now, when that red light appears in your eyes you will know that 5 minutes have elapsed. You will not be keyholed or taken into custody if you violate that. But when you see that red light, that is your invitation to pretty well wrap it down. We have your written testimony, which has been reviewed, which will be reviewed again.
Ms. Hart is not here yet, so we will suspend that.
Mr. Kendall, if you will begin your testimony. Good to have all of you with us, gentlemen.
STATEMENT OF DOUGLAS T. KENDALL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMUNITY RIGHTS COUNSEL
Mr. KENDALL. Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for conducting this important oversight hearing on the operation of Federal judicial misconduct and recusal statutes.
Community Rights Counsel's work on private judicial seminars, better known as ''junkets for judges,'' has focused on the operation of a Bozeman, Montana-based group called the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment, or FREE. FREE flies about 50 Federal judges a year to resorts and dude ranches in Montana to spend 5 or 6 days at a seminar on environmental law. FREE pays for judges' tuition, room and board, and travel expenses, a gift worth well over a $1,000.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
FREE seminars, in their words, reject top-down command and control environmentalism and promote private property rights, market incentives and voluntary arrangements. FREE receives about one-third of its funding from a handful of large corporations, including Texaco, General Electric and Monsanto; companies that regularly litigate environmental cases in Federal court.
FREE's remaining funding comes mainly from foundations, such as the Sarah Scaife Foundation, which simultaneously funds groups like the Pacific Legal Foundation to litigate environmental cases in Federal court. Free's corporate funders regularly send corporate officers to FREE seminars where they get to lecture to, dine with and in some cases, share a log cabin with Federal judges.
I don't think any objective observer could examine FREE's operation and conclude that FREE seminars advance public confidence in the judicial branch. Indeed, editorials from over 30 major newspapers from across the country have harshly criticized FREE and ''junkets for judges'' generally. As Representative Lofgren has stated, ''there is nothing more damaging to the citizens' faith in this country and due process of law than the belief, even if inaccurate, that those who are trusted to judge have been influenced by financial connections.''
I must say that I am surprised and disappointed by the Judicial Conference testimony suggesting that Advisory Opinion 67 does not necessarily require any inquiry into the litigation activities of the funders of organizations like FREE. I think this is a very strained interpretation of the words of AO 67.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC More importantly, ignorance, in this case, is not bliss. It is simply impossible for a judge to determine the propriety of attending a seminar without knowing whether the host is funded by corporations litigating before the judge. Respectfully, if AO 67 means what the judiciary is suggesting, it means it is not worth the paper it is written on.
Let me turn to the issue of stock conflicts. Judges should never rule in cases in which they own stock as a party. This is the brightest line in the rules of judicial ethics and it is not a difficult rule to follow. That is why I think the Kansas City Star story on stock conflicts by district court judges and the Community Rights Counsel study on stock conflicts by appellate court judges are so remarkable. These reports and others done subsequently have all examined very small samples and found significant numbers of stock conflicts.
The judiciary has taken some steps to correct the problems with stock conflicts, but the judiciary rejected the single most important reform: the posting of publicly available recusal lists. Adopting your wise comment to the Kansas City Star, Chairman Coble, quote, ''I don't think judges' financial holdings ought to be insulated from public knowledge.'' A theme running through both the stock conflict and junket stories, is the fact that judges' financial disclosure forms are inordinately difficult to obtain and too frequently omit required information. Unlike the other two branches of government, which allow immediate review of judges' public disclosure forms, the judiciary requires advanced notification of every Federal judge before releasing a form. This advanced notification takes weeks and hinders a review because litigants fear reprisal if a review becomes known by a judge.
Those obtaining judges' financial disclosure forms are often disappointed in their accuracy and completeness. Comparing judges' disclosure forms with a list of attendees obtained from FREE, Community Rights Counsel found that 13 of the 109 judges, 12 percent, that attended a FREE trip did not report the trip even after receiving a September, 1998 letter from the Financial Disclosure Committee warning, quote, ''Judges who have accepted such trips and not reported them in their financial disclosure form should immediately file amended reports.''
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Underdisclosure is just as larg a problem. For example, in 1998, only three of 34 judges that reported attending a FREE seminar estimated the value of the seminar gift as required under Federal disclosure laws. Again, echoing your wise words, Chairman Coble, the time to quoteit is time to, quote, ''get some sunlight into what appears to be a dark room,'' unquote.
Respectfully, I would recommend that the Committee ask the General Accounting Office to investigate the judiciary's compliance with Federal disclosure laws and make recommendations for improving the entire judicial disclosure process.
Thank you very much.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you, Mr. Kendall.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Kendall follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF DOUGLAS T. KENDALL
Mr. Chairman and Member of the Committee: Thank you for conducting this important oversight hearing on the operation of federal judicial misconduct and recusal statutes. A bedrock of our system of government is the principle that no oneleast of all a federal judgeis above the law. Judicial misconduct and recusal statutes help preserve the sanctity of this principle by ensuring that ethical and legal transgressions by judges are taken seriously, even if they do not rise to the level of an impeachable offense. These statutes must function properly in order to protect the public trust and confidence upon which our independent judiciary rests.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I am the founder and Executive Director of Community Rights Counsel, a not-for-profit, public interest law firm located in Washington, DC with the mission of helping state and local governments defend land-use and environmental protections against court challenges. Surprisingly, CRC has also become deeply enmeshed in several issues pertaining to judicial ethics. I say surprisingly, because this was not supposed to be a substantial part of CRC's mission. CRC also regularly litigates in federal court, making it uncomfortable for us to also play the role of a judicial ethics watchdog organization.
CRC got involved in judicial ethics issues only after we learned that a corporate-funded outfit called the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE) located in Montana was hosting federal judges for week-long stays at resorts and dude ranches and teaching judges to be deeply skeptical about environmental laws and land-use protections. We have stayed involved in the subject because each place we looked, under every rock we turned, we have found troubling evidence of a problem. Our work has convinced me that the federal judicial misconduct and recusal statutes are not working as well as they should and that there is a need for vigilant oversight on this issue by Congress.
My testimony today will cover two topics that have been the subject of Community Rights Counsel reports: financial conflicts of interest and corporate-funded trips, what some have labeled ''junkets for judges.'' While these problems are distinct, common threads run between them. Both problems illustrate the critical need for accurate and timely public financial disclosure by judges and the serious flaws in the existing disclosure system. Both problems also illustrate the need for effective penalties for non-compliance with ethical standards and the inadequacy of the current judicial disciplinary system in acting as a serious deterrent. Finally, corporate litigantsas the funders of the trips and the source of the financial conflictsare at the center of both problems. This fact is disturbing because at the same time these junkets and stock conflicts have come to light, there has emerged a new form of judicial activism from our federal courts that is pro-market, hostile to government regulations and in keeping with the interest of these same corporations.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I. JUNKETS FOR JUDGES UNDERMINE PUBLIC CONFIDENCE IN THE JUDICIARY
Corporations and foundations that have a legal agenda in the courts are advancing this agenda by paying for free trips for federal judges to resorts and dude ranches. Once there, judges attend lectures making the case for curbing government regulation in favor of a free-market approach to matters like protecting the environment.
A. Corporations and Special Interests with Legal Agendas Should Not Be Permitted to Give Judges Gifts worth Thousands of Dollars
The problem with junkets for judges starts with the funding. Corporations and foundations with a legal agenda should not be permitted to fund, and thus shape, the legal education received by our federal judges. The fact that judicial education is being paid for by entities that have an interest in or are parties to federal litigation creates an appearance of improper influence and undermines public trust and confidence in the judiciary.
A July 2000 report by Community Rights Counsel, Nothing for Free: How Private Judicial Seminars are Undermining Environmental Protections and Breaking the Public's Trust, (recently republished in the Harvard Environmental Law Review and available online at www.tripsforjudges.org) provides a comprehensive look at the problems posed by privately funded judicial seminars. Nothing for Free found that between 1992 and 1998 more than 230 federal judgesmore than a quarter of the federal judiciarytraveled to resorts at the expense of private interests with a stake in federal litigation.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC An April 2001 ABC News' 20/20 program, which focused on a trip hosted by George Mason's Law and Economics Center (LEC) at the Omni Tucson Golf Resort and Spa, perfectly illustrated this problem. The 20/20 program featured federal judges on the golf course and lounging poolside with cocktails. Several judges interviewed on camera called the trip a ''vacation.'' Meanwhile, ABC News discovered numerous cases in which LEC's corporate sponsors were litigating before a LEC attendee.
Consider finally a recusal motion recently filed in a case called Aguinda v. Texaco. Lawyers for 30,000 Ecuadorian Indians sought to remove the judge hearing their $1 billion environmental case against Texaco after learning that Texaco had been a regular and substantial contributor to FREE, which hosted a junket attended by the presiding judge. At the FREE trip, the former CEO of Texaco gave a lecture to the judge entitled ''The Environment: A CEO's Perspective.''
On the 20/20 program and elsewhere, judges have asserted that they were unaware of the corporate funding of FREE and LEC. For example, one judge told 20/20: ''I have no idea where [LEC] gets its money.'' When asked by 20/20 whether he knew that LEC gets its money from corporations, another judge responded, ''[LEC] didn't tell us that.'' When asked whether he had an obligation to find out, this judge responded: ''Not necessarily, I mean because what's the difference?''
Advisory Opinion 67, issued by the Judicial Conference's Committee on Codes of Conduct, requires that judges investigate the sponsors and ''source of funding'' for any privately funded seminar before attending. A September 1998 report, prepared by the Committee on Codes of Conduct in response to a request by several members of this Subcommittee, reaffirmed that under Advisory Opinion 67, ''specific information about the sponsor of the seminar, the source of funding, their involvement in litigation, the content of the seminar, and the judge's relationship to such litigation all bear on the question of whether a judge's participation is proper or improper under the Code of Conduct.''
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
B. Corporations and Special Interests are Using Junkets to Advance a Legal Agenda
During an interview for 20/20, the Dean of the George Mason Law School frankly admitted that LEC is ''out to influence minds . . . If court cases are changed, then that is something we are proud of as well.'' FREE is equally brazen about using its seminars to promote ''free market environmentalism,'' a school of thought that embraces, in their words, ''property rights, market processes and responsible liberty'' and rejects ''command and control'' environmentalism.
Particularly troubling is the evidence that suggests that these private seminars are in fact changing court cases. CRC's Nothing for Free report documents a pattern of disturbing facts, including the following:
In 10 of the last decade's most dramatic departures from established precedent in the area of environmental law, the judge striking down the protection took part in at least one junket.
In six of these cases, the judge attended the trip while the case was pending.
In at least three of these cases, the judge ruled in favor of a litigant bankrolled by the trip's sponsors.
In one of the decade's most important environmental rulings, a judge ruled to uphold habitat protection, attended a seminar, came back, switched his vote, and wrote an opinion striking down a central component of the Endangered Species Act.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Even assuming that the remarkable correlation documented in Nothing for Free is complete coincidence, this correlation still creates an awful appearance problem for judges and the judiciary. As Representative Zoe Lofgren of this subcommittee stated eloquently at an oversight hearing three years ago when word of these trips first came to light:
There is nothing more damaging to citizens' faith in the country and in the due process of law than the belief, even if inaccurate, that those who are trusted to judge have been influenced by financial connections.
C. Judicial Education Should Not Take Place in a Vacation Setting
The final problem with FREE and LEC junkets for judges is that they take place at resorts. Indeed, as noted above, several judges told 20/20 that they viewed the LEC seminar they were attending as a ''vacation,'' a statement validated by footage of judges on the Omni Tucson's championship golf course.
The exotic locales of the FREE and LEC trips exacerbate the appearance problems stemming from these programs in several ways. Most obviously, even if corporate litigants were permitted to fund judicial education, they certainly should not be permitted to pay for judicial vacations. Additionally, however, the resort settings give FREE and LEC a competitive advantage over seminars hosted by the taxpayer-funded Federal Judicial Center. As Abner Mikva stated in a recent New York Times opinion piece:
The federal judiciary has a Federal Judicial Center that provides educational seminars for judges on a wide range of legal topics. Since it uses taxpayer funds and answers to Congress, the program locales are not exotic, but the presentations are balanced.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Judge Rya Zobel, former Director of the Federal Judicial Center, echoed Judge Mikva in testimony before this Subcommittee: ''we have offered annually a program on environmental law, for example, in conjunction with Lewis & Clark University. The primary complaint we've had about that is that we work the judges too hard.''
II. JUDICIAL STOCK CONFLICTS CANNOT BE TOLERATED
Over the last three years, news organizations and Community Rights Counsel have looked at different judges and different geographic regions and come to the same conclusion: judges are ruling far too frequently in cases in which they have a disqualifying financial conflict of interest.
A. Legal and Ethical Standards Are Unequivocal
The legal and ethical standards with respect to financial conflicts of interest could not be clearer. Judges cannot rule in a case in which he or she has a financial interest, period. This obligation is enshrined in federal law (28 U.S.C. §455) and the Canons of Judicial Ethics (Canon 3). It is enforced by a certification requirement which every judge must sign each year, subject to criminal and civil sanctions, certifying that:
In compliance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §455 and of Advisory Opinion No. 57 of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Activities, and to the best of my knowledge at the time after reasonable inquiry, I did not perform any adjudicatory function in any litigation during the period covered by this report in which I, my spouse, or my minor or dependent children had a financial interest, as defined in Canon 3C(3)(c), in the outcome of such litigation.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Judges are required by the Canons to ''keep informed about the judge's personal and fiduciary economic interests, and make a reasonable effort to keep informed about the personal economic interests of the judge's spouse.'' (Canon 3(E)(2)). Judges must also ''manage the judge's investments and other financial interests to minimize the number of cases in which the judge is disqualified.'' (Canon 4(D)(4)).
B. Studies Reveal Remarkable Numbers of Stock Conflicts
Perhaps the most dramatic results were found in a study published in 1998 by the Kansas City Star. The Star looked at district court judges in four courthouses in four states and found 57 cases in which a judge had issued one or more orders despite owning stock in one of the parties. Remarkably, in three of the four courts examined, at least half of the judges ruled in one or more cases in which he or she had a financial conflict of interest.
Following up on the Kansas City Star's series, Community Rights Counsel conducted a study to identify conflicts of interest among active federal appellate judges. Looking only at a single year and at rulings on the merits published in the LexisR database, we identified eight judges that ruled in 17 cases in which they had a disqualifying financial interest (this study is available online at www.communityrights.org).
The results of CRC's study are particularly remarkable in light of the context in which they occurred. The disclosure forms we reviewed were filed after the Kansas City Star series and after receipt by each of the judges of an urgent letter from the Judiciary's Codes of Conduct Committee reminding them of the legal obligation ''not only to be informed about his or her personal financial interests but also to make a reasonable effort to be informed about the personal financial interests of the judge's spouse and minor children.''
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Nevertheless, every judge identified in our study certified under penalty of criminal and civil sanctions that they had not performed any adjudicatory function in which they had a disqualifying financial interest. For each judge, this certification was apparently inaccurate and a simple search on LexisR (available to every federal judge) would have revealed these conflicts. Moreover, each circuit court requires corporations to file a corporate disclosure form early in the appellate litigation process to ensure that judges can easily flag any financial conflicts. Our study strongly suggests that many judges are not taking their obligation to avoid financial conflicts seriously enough.
It is also troubling to note that in more than 80 percent of the conflict cases we identified, the judges in question ruled at least partially in favor of their financial interests. I do not view this as evidence that the judges were using their judicial power to advance their pecuniary interests. I am convinced that in the vast majority (if not all) of these cases, the conflict resulted from mere oversight. But I do find it very troubling when judges hold a great deal of stock in major corporate litigants, rule in favor of these litigants in most cases and, occasionally, rule in cases where they have a stock conflict. It certainly adds grist to the mill of those who argue that the judicial system is biased in favor of wealthy corporate interests.
Anyone who believes that the problem of stock conflicts has been solved in the aftermath of the Kansas City Star and Community Rights Counsel studies should review an August 2001 story published by the Times Leader of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania involving Senior Judge Edwin Kosik of the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Judge Kosik reportedly ruled in at least 10 cases in which PNC Bank appeared even though he owned stock in the bank. Remarkably, Judge Kosik admitted ruling in two bank cases in 1999 and 2000, after he realized the conflict and after he received a stern warning from the Codes of Conduct Committee about avoiding conflicts. Judge Kosik explained to the paper that his two rulings in favor of the bank required little decision-making and were not appealed. These explanations notwithstanding, Judge Kosik appears to have knowingly violated 28 U.S.C. §455 and the judiciary should take this apparent violation of federal law seriously.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
III. JUDGES' FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE FORMS ARE HARD TO OBTAIN AND OMIT REQUIRED
A theme running through both the stock conflict and junkets stories is the fact that judges' financial disclosure forms are inordinately difficult to obtain and, too frequently, omit required information.
A. The Disclosure Review Process Is Unduly Burdensome
Unlike the other two branches of government, which allow review and duplication of financial disclosure forms on the same day they are requested, the judiciary's Financial Disclosure Office notifies a judge in writing before granting access to a financial disclosure report. This advance notification seems contrary to the Ethics Reform Act of 1989, which establishes detailed procedures for the disclosure process and makes no allowance for such advance notification. Because most litigants would rather not risk upsetting a judge, advance notification creates a powerful deterrent to many potential reviewers. It also takes at least a week, and frequently over a month, for the Financial Disclosure Office to process requests for review of a financial disclosure form.
The Judiciary's resistance to making public disclosures easily available to the public is perhaps best illustrated by the Committee on Financial Disclosure's decision to deny a request for disclosures filed by an online publisher called APBnews.com. In late 1999, APBnews.com requested a copy of the 1998 disclosure forms for each federal judge and magistrate with the intent of publishing them on the Internet (something already done for members of Congress). APBnews.com paid for the copies, but while waiting for the reports, the Financial Disclosure Committee issued an indefinite moratorium on the public release of any disclosures, to anybody. Eventually the Financial Disclosure Committee lifted the moratorium, but permanently barred APBnews.com from obtaining copies of the disclosure forms.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
This decision was in direct contradiction to federal disclosure law, which specifically permits use of the forms by ''news and communications media for dissemination to the general public.'' As such, it drew bi-partisan ire on Capitol Hill, with Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) terming it ''an offense to the openness that helps define our system of government'' and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) stating: ''The Judicial Conference should reconsider the scope of its decision, or Congress will have to do so.'' Editorial boards were even less kind, with major news organizations terming the decision ''laughable,'' ''infuriating,'' ''tortured,'' and ''embarrassing.'' Eventually, after APBnews.com filed suit and Chief Justice Rehnquist intervened, drafting a biting six-page memo critiquing the decision, the Judicial Conference overruled the Committee's decision.
B. Judges Routinely Omit Required Information
Those succeeding in obtaining judges' financial disclosure forms are often disappointed in the accuracy and completeness of the information conveyed therein.
For example, after publishing its series on stock conflicts in April 1998, the Kansas City Star reviewed the financial disclosure forms filed in May 1998 by the 33 judges included in their study. The Star found that one out of every three reports included information that by law should have been disclosed earlier. This new information led to the discovery of three additional conflicts of interest that were hidden by omissions in prior disclosure forms.
CRC made similar findings with respect to disclosure of judicial junkets. The laws and guidelines concerning what a judge must disclose to the public are clear and simple. Both federal law and Advisory Opinion 67 require that judges ''report the reimbursement of expenses and the value of the gift on their financial disclosure reports.''
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Comparing financial disclosure forms with attendee lists prepared by FREE and LEC, CRC determined that at least 22 federal judges failed to report FREE or LEC junkets, even after a September 1998 memorandum from the Financial Disclosure Committee warning: ''Judges who have accepted such trips and not reported them on their financial disclosure forms in past years should immediately file amended reports.'' This represents approximately 11% of the judges that FREE and LEC report attending junkets during this same time period. Put another way, nearly one out of every nine federal judges apparently failed to report a privately funded trip even after a personal reminder about the requirements of federal law from the Disclosure Committee.
Under-disclosure is as large a problem as non-disclosure. Again despite clear mandates, judges' financial disclosure reports routinely fail to report all the information required. For example, in 1998, only 3 of the 34 judges who reported attending FREE seminars attempted to estimate the value of the seminar gift, as required under federal disclosure law.
IV. THE JUDICIAL DISCIPLINE SYSTEM ESTABLISHED IN 28 U.S.C. 372 IS NOT ACTING AS AN EFFECTIVE DETERRENT
Federal judges are taking trips funded by corporate litigants, ruling despite financial conflicts and omitting basic information from financial disclosure forms. One searching for an explanation need look no further than recent statistics from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts regarding judicial disciplinary actions pursuant to the process established in 28 U.S.C. 372. These statistics, summarized in an April 1998 story by the Kansas City Star, demonstrate that the judicial discipline system is not working effectively to deter ethical violations.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
According to the Star, in fiscal years 1996 and 1997 more than 1,000 formal complaints were filed against federal judges nationwide. The chief judges' decided that not one of these cases required official discipline. Indeed, the chief judges failed to send a single complaint on to the next level in the complaint process; investigation by a committee of judges. In more than 450 cases, complainants appealed the dismissal of their complaint to the judicial council of an appellate court. These councils rejected every appeal.
Undoubtedly, many of these complaints were filed by disgruntled litigants and warranted no disciplinary action. But given the evidence that suggests that ethical transgressions do occur with some regularity, it strains credibility to suggest that not one of over 1,000 formal complaints warranted any official disciplinary action.
As every judge knows, the law only works if there are penalties for its violation. In the case of transgressions by judges of legal and ethical standards, there appears to be no effective deterrent. This is reflected in the persistence of stock conflicts and non-disclosures despite explicit rules and clear reminders from the Administrative Office. It is also reflected in the cavalier reaction of many judges to reports of improprieties. For example:
Judge Tom Stagg of Louisiana responded to proof that he failed to disclose a junket by telling the Washington Post: ''The food was wonderful; the teachers were wonderful. If somebody doesn't like it, I'm sorry.''
When the Kansas City Star confronted Judge Ancer Haggerty with evidence that his financial disclosure form omitted basic information on his stock holdings, he refused to detail his actual holdings claiming: ''You are entitled to these reports, but that is all you are entitled to.''
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
When asked by the New York Daily News if he had read the financial disclosure form upon which the judge certified, inaccurately, that he had not ruled in any cases where he had a financial conflict, Judge Whitman Knapp replied: ''Heavens, no! It wouldn't have any meaning to me.''
V. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS:
I again want to commend the Committee for conducting this important oversight hearing. As described above, there is substantial evidence that suggests that the federal judicial misconduct and recusal statutes are not working effectively enough to prevent erosion of the public's trust and confidence in the judicial branch. Permit me to leave you with several recommendations for using this Committee's oversight authority in responding to the problems posed by judicial junkets, stock conflicts and non-disclosure.
Ban Junkets: In June 1998, several members of this Committee requested that the judiciary reevaluate Advisory Opinion 67, which currently sets the standard for judges on attending junkets. In September 1998, the Judicial Conference's Committee on Codes of Conduct responded by asserting that the criterion established in the Opinion was adequate to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Clearly this has not proven to be the case. The time seems ripe for another request for reconsideration of Advisory Opinion 67. There is also a pressing need for clarification by the Committee concerning the type of inquiry Advisory Opinion 67 requires regarding the corporations and foundations that are the ''sources of funding'' for FREE and LEC trips.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I also note that in the 106th Congress, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) introduced legislation (S. 2990) that would have banned large gifts associated with privately funded judicial seminars. They have promised to introduce a revised bill this term and to fight for its passage. I urge members of this Committee to consider introducing legislation on this topic in the House.
Impose Penalties for Stock Conflicts and Non-Disclosure: There should be more effective penalties to enforce judges' disclosure obligations and the ban on ruling in cases in which a judge owns stock. For example, litigants discovering a stock conflict within some statute of limitations period should be able to vacate any adverse rulings and seek a new hearing before a judge without a conflict.
Post Recusal Lists at Local Courthouses: The Judicial Conference's Committee on Financial Disclosure considered and rejected a proposal that would have required judges to maintain an up-to-date ''recusal list'' available to litigants (without advance notification of the judge) at the clerk's office. This Committee should ask the Judicial Conference to reconsider implementation of this common-sense reform.
Make Financial Disclosure Forms Available without Advance Notification: The judiciary is currently seeking the extension of statutory authority (5 U.S.C. app. 4, §105(b)(3)) for the Judicial Conference to prevent ''the immediate and unconditional availability of [financial disclosure reports]'' where release of the forms could endanger a federal judge. This is sound public policy, but this statutory provision strongly implies that where there is no danger to a particular judge, financial disclosure forms should be immediately available. This is never the case with judges' financial disclosure forms. As described above, there is always a lengthy advance notification process that significantly hinders public review of judges' disclosure forms.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
An alternative procedure that seems to address the legitimate concerns of the judiciary would be as follows. Judges should annually file two versions of their financial disclosure forms: one for the Financial Disclosure Office and one for public review. Judges should be permitted to redact from the public review copy any information that is truly personal and sensitive (i.e. the judge's signature, any reference to the names of the judge's children, etc). These public review copies should then be made available immediately upon request. If the Judiciary, in consultation with the United States Marshal Service, decides that release of even this public review copy could endanger a judge, they should be permitted to further redact the report only to the extent necessary to protect the judge and only for as long as the danger to the judge exists.
Mr. COBLE. Now I am going to skip over you, Mike, because I have indicated earlier, we have been assigned two additional Members of this Subcommittee to replace vacancies that occurred when Congressman Scarborough and Congressman Hutchinson departed. The distinguished gentlelady from Pennsylvania, Ms. Hart, is coming aboard what Mr. Delahunt and Mr. Berman and I view as the best Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittees.
Ms. Hart, I have upstaged you, but I know you wanted to recognize your former professor. So why don't you do that at this time, and we will hear from Professor Hellman.
And then we will get back to you, Mr. Remington.
Ms. HART. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just wanted to say, it is wonderful to be on this Committee. I was hoping that I would get to choose it on the first round. I was, unfortunately, too far at the end of the line, not that I am pleased that Representatives Hutchinson and Scarborough had to leave, but I am not bothered by the fact that there were vacancies on the Committee and I was able to fill one. So it is an honor to be here, Mr. Chairman.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
It is also an honor to introduce to the Committee and those here today a gentleman whose reputation has been, I think, widely known throughout the legal world for quite a while. His reputation, when I was a law student, was also widely known.
I was a student at the University of Pittsburgh during Arthur Hellman's tenure. While he is still teaching law, he has somehow found the time to become quite a distinguished authority on court systems, the Federal court system, as well, especially. And he is a professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh and distinguished faculty scholar at the University Pittsburgh School of Law.
I graduated from that university's school of law an unnamed number of years ago and have found that in my career of public service, my law degree and the things that I learned there, especially as far as procedural issues, have served me quite well. I was a State Senator for 10 years, as I know Professor Hellman knows well, and also now I am a freshman here.
But I must note that Professor Hellman, though widely known and widely published, has also beenand I am not making this upwidely loved by the students at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, because those who study the law know, it can be quite dry. He does have a wayby the way, I was not one of his students, but several of my closest friends wereand was quite an entertaining and engaging professor. And that is a very good thing.
I want to thank you for taking the time to be with us today to share your knowledge with us on the Committee.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
And I would like to thank the Chairman for indulging me. Thank you.
Mr. COBLE. I thank the gentlelady. As I said earlier, Judge Osteen was my former boss and was always very evenhanded and fair with me, so I have no score to settle with him.
Professor, if you were not evenhanded and fair with the lady from Pennsylvania, that may be your problem. But we will recognize you for 5 minutes, Professor.
STATEMENT OF ARTHUR D. HELLMAN, PROFESSOR OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH SCHOOL OF LAW
Mr. HELLMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And, of course, I did say in my statement that I do not speak for any institution or official body, but I think I do speak for the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in saying how proud we are to have one of our graduates not only in the United States House of Representatives, but serving on the Judiciary Committee and this particular very important Subcommittee.
In the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980, Congress provided a mechanism for identifying and correcting judicial misconduct without intruding on judicial independence. In my view, the basic framework of that act is sound. But even the best of systems require reexamination to consider the lessons of experience and to meet changes in conditions or even perceptions over a period of time.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, in my written testimony, I've suggested some amendments to the statute that are grounded in the experience of, now, more than 20 years. These involved matters of detail, although I would not call them technicalities. They are more than that; and I hope we will have a chance to discuss these in the question period. But I would like to turn now to some of the broader issues raised by the statute.
A good place to begin is with the statistical report published each year by the Administrative Office. Now, I have attached to my statement as Table 1 a compilation of the AO's figures over the last 6 years. And one thing stands out from those figures: The overwhelming majority of complaints are dismissed, either by the chief judge or by the judicial council reviewing the chief judge's order.
I think a natural reaction to those figures would be: surely Federal judges, good as they generally are, can't be that good. Either some of the would-be complainants are not taking advantage of the statutory procedures or the courts are sometimes failing in their duty to act when judges fail to live up to the high standards we expect of them.
Now, neither of those possibilities can be ruled out, but before we jump to conclusions, I think it is important to emphasize that the formal mechanisms of the statute are not the only methods for dealing with misconduct or disability in the Federal judiciary.
First, the figures do not reflect the informal corrective processes that may take place in the absence of a formal complaint. And that is a fascinating aspect of this system.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Second, many instances of judicial misconduct are dealt with through appellate review in particular cases. A good example is the Microsoft case that made the headlines just a few months ago. I also believe that in the long term, the most effective and efficient method of maintaining integrity in the Federal judiciary lies in rigorous scrutiny at the appointment stage, and we have that rigorous scrutiny today.
Yet, having said all that, I also have to say that the statistical record is not as reassuring as it could be and as it should be. And the reason is that the judiciary has not done enough to make the complaint process visible.
Now, it seems to me that there is one step that could go a long way toward increasing that visibility. The suggestion is that the Web site of every Federal court should include a prominent link to the rules and the forms that govern the filing of a complaint under section 372(c) concerning a judge of that court.
I think the Internet can also be helpful in many other ways, but I see that my time is almost up and there is one other matter I would like to touch upon. This hearing, which deals with judicial disqualification, is as good an opportunity as there will ever be to call the Subcommittee's attention to a minor statutory malfunction that otherwise is going to remain forever below everybody's radar.
Section 46(c) of title 28 provides that en banc rehearing can be ordered by a majority of the circuit judges who are in regular active service. And the circuits are divided on whether majority means a majority of all active judgesthat is to say, an absolute majorityor a majority of the judges who are not recused. Five of the circuits follow an absolute majority rule. In those circuits, recused judges are having an effect on case outcomes that, by definition, they should not be having. And this is hardly a major problem but it is one that is easily corrected.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I would urge the Subcommittee to read the opinion of Judge Carnes that I have cited in my statement. He analyzes the issue in detail. And I would urge you to take appropriate action, perhaps by drafting an amendment to be included in the next omnibus judiciary legislation.
In conclusion, these are a very important set of issues that have been raised here. And I hope we have the opportunity to ventilate them in detail.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you, Professor.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Hellman follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF ARTHUR D. HELLMAN
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I appreciate your invitation to express my views at this oversight hearing on federal judicial misconduct and disqualification. By way of personal background, I am a professor of law and Distinguished Faculty Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Among other subjects, I teach courses in Federal Courts and Constitutional Law. I have published numerous articles, monographs, and books dealing with various aspects of the work of the federal courts.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Over the years, I have been privileged to participate in a number of institutional enterprises aimed at improving the administrative of justice, both state and federal. I served as Chair of the Civil Justice Reform Committee of the American Judicature Society, and I supervised a distinguished group of scholars in analyzing the innovations of the Ninth Circuit and its court of appeals. More recently, I served on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Evaluation Committee appointed by Chief Judge Procter Hug, Jr. Of course, in my testimony today I speak only for myself; I do not speak for any court or other institution.
This statement is in six parts. Part I introduces the statutory scheme for judicial discipline; it also calls attention to some of the resources available to the Subcommittee as it pursues its oversight responsibilities. Part II discusses possible amendments to the existing statute that warrant consideration at this time. Part III addresses some of the longer-range issues raised by the statute, and Part IV provides a brief assessment of the current operation of the system. Part V deals with judicial disqualification. It offers a better approach to disclosing judges' conflicts of interest, and it flags a statutory ambiguity involving recusal by court of appeals judges. The statement concludes with brief comments on the Internet as a tool for safeguarding judicial integrity without interfering with judicial independence.
A. Section 372(c) and the delicate balance
The federal judicial system is the envy of civilized nations throughout the world. Its stature rests in large part on two essential features: judicial independence and judicial integrity. For the most part, judicial independence and judicial integrity reinforce another. In one respect, however, there is a tension between the two. Because human beings are fallible, it is generally accepted that some mechanism is required to identify and correct instances in which particular judges have strayed from the norms of ''good behavior.'' But if the process is too bureaucratic, too heavy-handed, or too quick to move to formal adjudication, it poses a threat to the judges' independence.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980 (hereinafter ''the Act''), Congress sought to reconcile the competing values. I believe that the Actcodified in section 372(c) of the Judicial Codestrikes an appropriate balance, and that the basic framework established in the statute is sound. But no product of human invention can be perfect. Moreover, even the best of systems may require modification to meet changes in conditions or perceptions over a period of time.
One element of the compromise that produced section 372(c) was the assurance of continuing legislative oversight. More than a decade has now passed since Congress last conducted a thorough examination of the operation of the system. Additionally, the emergence of the Internet as a ubiquitous vehicle for communication calls for rethinking of procedures established in the pre-Internet era. It is therefore appropriate and timely for this Subcommittee to conduct an oversight hearing on the operation of the Act and related issues of judicial misconduct and judicial discipline. And I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in this important endeavor.
Section 372(c) raises a wide range of issues, including deep questions of constitutional law associated with the process of impeachment and the possibility of prosecuting federal judges under criminal laws. I will concentrate here on the more mundaneand more commonissues growing out of the everyday operation of section 372(c) and the work of judges, chief judges, and circuit councils.
B. Resource materials for Congressional oversight
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In pursuing its oversight responsibilities on issues of judicial misconduct and judicial discipline, the Subcommittee can benefit from the work of several institutions that have labored in this field over the past 20 years.
First, the Judicial Conference of the United States has promulgated Illustrative Rules Governing Judicial Misconduct and Disability. These Illustrative Rules address many procedural and substantive issues that are not addressed by the statute itself. They have been revised several times over the years, and they reflect the lessons of experience nationwide.
Second, each of the federal judicial circuits has adopted rules based on the Illustrative Rules. As it happens, the circuit I am most familiar with is the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit's rules, available on the circuit's web site, http://www.ce9.uscourts.gov/, include detailed commentaries on the purpose and operation of the rules. I have drawn on the Ninth Circuit's rules in preparing this statement. References are to the version dated August 21, 2000.
Third, the National Commission on Judicial Discipline and Removal, established by Congress in late 1990, submitted a detailed report in August 1993 on a variety of issues relating to the 1980 Act and problems of judicial misconduct. The Commission was chaired by Robert W. Kastenmeier, former Chairman of this Subcommittee and author of the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980. The Commission's report is published in 152 F.R.D. 265 (hereinafter ''NCJDR Report'').
Fourth, the Federal Judicial Center, the research arm of the federal judiciary, carried out an empirical study at the behest of the National Commission. See Jeffrey N. Barr & Thomas E. Willgang, Decentralized Self-Regulation, Accountability, and Judicial Independence Under the Federal Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980, 142 U. Pa. L. Rev. 25 (1993) (hereinafter ''FJC Study''). This is a thorough, objective, and thoughtful piece of research that is enormously useful in showing how the Act has been implemented at the everyday operational level. I have drawn heavily on it here.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
One other preliminary point warrants mention at this stage. Section 372(c) as currently written generally uses masculine pronouns. For consistency and ease of reference, I have followed suit here. If the statute is amended, Congress could take the opportunity to make all references gender-neutral.
II. POSSIBLE AMENDMENTS TO SECTION 372(C)
For most of the nation's history, the only formal procedure for dealing with misconduct by federal judges was the cumbersome process of impeachment. Criminal prosecution was a theoretical possibility, but until 1980, ''no sitting federal judge was ever prosecuted and convicted of a crime committed while in office.'' NCJDR Report at 326.
That era ended with the enactment of the Judicial Councils Reform and Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980 (to give it its full name). The 1980 law, codified as section 372(c) of the Judicial Code, established a new set of procedures for judicial discipline and vested primary responsibility for implementing them in the federal judicial circuits. Minor changes were made in later years, notably in the Judicial Improvements Act of 1990.
In enacting section 372(c), Congress opted for a system that has aptly been described as ''decentralized self-regulation.'' See FJC Study at 29. I see no reason to revisit that decision, but I do think that some fine-tuning is in order. The suggestions in Part II are drawn largely from the Federal Judicial Center study and from the rules adopted by the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit in furtherance of the Act.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCA. Recognizing authority of chief judge to conduct limited inquiry
Ordinarily, the process delineated in section 372(c) begins with the filing of a complaint about a judge with the clerk of the court of appeals for the circuit. The clerk must ''promptly transmit'' the complaint to the chief judge of the circuit. The chief judge, after ''expeditiously reviewing'' the complaint, has three options. He can dismiss the complaint; he can ''conclude the proceeding if he finds that appropriate corrective action has been taken or that action on the complaint is no longer necessary because of intervening events;'' or he can appoint a special committee to investigate the allegations.
The Act says nothing about the procedures the chief judge may or must follow before determining which of these steps to take. However, for at least a decade, the Illustrative Rules have recognized the power of the chief judge to conduct a limited inquiry as part of the process of ''expeditious review.'' The rules adopted by the various circuits also embody this authority. For example, the Ninth Circuit's Rule 4(b) provides:
In determining what action to take, the chief judge may conduct a limited inquiry for the purpose of determining (1) whether appropriate corrective action has been or can be taken without the necessity for a formal investigation, and (2) whether the facts stated in the complaint are either plainly untrue or are incapable of being established through investigation. For this purpose, the chief judge may request the judge whose conduct is complained of to file a written response to the complaint. Such response will not be made available to the complainant unless authorized by the responding judge. The chief judge or his or her designee may also communicate orally or in writing with the complainant, the judge whose conduct is complained of, and other people who may have knowledge of the matter, and may review any transcripts or other relevant documents.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I agree with the Judicial Conference, the circuits, and the National Commission that authority to conduct a limited inquiry is implicit in the existing statute. For example, as already noted, the statute provides that the chief judge ''may conclude the proceeding if he finds that appropriate corrective action has been taken.'' It is hard to see how the chief judge could make such a finding without undertaking at least some investigation into the facts of the complaint.
Nevertheless, I believe it would be desirable to amend the Act to recognize the power explicitly. By hypothesis, the Act deals with matters of great sensitivity. Something as important as the power of the chief judge to conduct a limited factual inquiry should not be left to implication from other statutory language.
A second reason for amending the Act is that Congress can also make explicit the limitations on the power. For example, the amendment could make clear that the power to conduct a limited inquiry does not include the power to resolve issues of credibility. If the validity of a complaint depends on whether one believes an allegation that is not inherently incredible or refuted by objective evidence, the chief judge should appoint the special committee required by the statute.
B. Recognizing authority of chief judge to dismiss after limited inquiry
Under §372(c) as it now stands, the chief judge may dismiss a complaint for any of three reasons:
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC (i) [The complaint is] not in conformity with paragraph (1) of this subsection. [Paragraph (1) provides: ''Any person alleging that a circuit, district, or bankruptcy judge, or a magistrate, has engaged in conduct prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts, or alleging that such a judge or magistrate is unable to discharge all the duties of office by reason of mental or physical disability, may file with the clerk of the court of appeals for the circuit a written complaint containing a brief statement of the facts constituting such conduct.'']
(ii) [The complaint is] directly related to the merits of a decision or procedural ruling, or
(iii) [The complaint is] frivolous. (Emphasis added.)
Experience suggests that a fourth category should be added, and that the third category should be delineated more fully.
The proposed fourth category would carry forward the suggestion (discussed above) that the chief judge be explicitly authorized to conduct a limited inquiry. If the limited inquiry demonstrates that the allegations lack any factual foundation or are conclusively refuted by objective evidence, the chief judge should be authorized to dismiss the complaint.
This suggestion draws upon both the Illustrative Rules and the Federal Judicial Center study. The FJC study recommended that the chief judge be authorized to dismiss the complaint if the limited inquiry demonstrates ''that the allegations lack any factual foundation.'' FJC Study at 63. However, I think the statute should be more explicit in addressing what may be a common situation: objective evidence uncovered by the inquiry conclusively refutes the allegations of the complaint. For example, the complaint may assert that the judge used an ethnic slur or other offensive language. An audio tape of the proceeding may demonstrate beyond question that the judge did not use the language attributed to him.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
This proposal, like the first one, would largely codify present practice. For example, the Ninth Circuit's rules provide that the term ''frivolous'' includes ''alleging facts that are shown by a limited inquiry [to be] plainly untrue [or] lacking sufficient evidentiary support either (i) to raise an inference that some kind of cognizable misconduct has occurred, or (ii) to warrant further investigation.'' (Emphasis added.)
I do not take issue with this interpretation of section 372(c). It is not unreasonable to say that an allegation that is ''plainly untrue'' or that ''lack[s] sufficient evidentiary support'' falls within the realm of the ''frivolous.'' Nevertheless, there are at least three reasons why it is desirable to amend the statute to establish a separate category for dismissals based on limited inquiry.
First, the Ninth Circuit's rules, like those of other circuits, may stretch the term ''frivolous'' somewhat beyond its generally accepted meaning. As the FJC study pointed out, ''complainants may more commonly understand the termto refer to complaints that contain insufficient factual allegations to warrant inquiry. A dismissal for frivolousness, therefore, could readily be misunderstood as an indication that the chief judge did not take the complaint's allegations seriously.'' FJC Study at 63.
Second, as also noted by the FJC study, a misunderstanding of that kind would be particularly unfortunate when a complaint alleges ethnic, gender, or some other kind of bias. ''A dismissal as 'frivolous' might leave the unseemly impression that allegations of that kind do not concern the judiciary.'' Id.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thirdand generalizing from the preceding pointI think it is desirable to distinguish between dismissals based on the complaint alone and those based on evidence outside the complaint. This point is further developed in Section C, immediately below.
C. Specifying other bases for dismissal identifiable on the face of the complaint
In addition to the language quoted above, the current Ninth Circuit rules define ''frivolous'' to include ''making charges that are wholly unsupported or alleging facts that are shown by a limited inquiry [to be] (A) plainly untrue, (B) incapable of being established through investigation, or (C) lacking sufficient evidentiary support either (i) to raise an inference that some kind of cognizable misconduct has occurred, or (ii) to warrant further investigation.'' 9th Cir. R. 4(c)(3).
While I respect the Ninth Circuit's efforts to be comprehensive and meticulous in giving content to the term ''frivolous,'' I am concerned that the formulation improvidently intermingles reasons for dismissal that can be identified from the complaint alone and those that require some consideration of materials outside the complaint.
Lawyers are familiar with the distinction between a dismissal on the pleadings and the grant of summary judgment. The distinction is reflected in Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure:
If, on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56, and all parties shall be given reasonable opportunity to present all material made pertinent to such a motion by Rule 56.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
For two reasons, recognition of the distinction is especially appropriate here. First, the complainant has a legitimate interest in knowing whether his complaint was found wanting on its face or whether the chief judge relied on other evidence in reaching his conclusion. Second, if the matter proceeds to review by the judicial council (see section D, below), the reviewing body should not have to speculate as to whether the dismissal was based on the complaint alone.
In this light, I think it is desirable to amend subsection (iii) of §372(c)(3)(A) by specifying other reasons for dismissal that can be identified on the face of the complaint. Drawing on the Ninth Circuit's rules and commentary, I suggest that the provision might authorize the chief judge to dismiss the complaint if it ''is frivolous, if it does not include sufficient evidence to raise an inference that misconduct has occurred, or if the allegations are incapable of being established through investigation.''
The amendment should make clear that dismissals in these categories are distinct from dismissals after limited inquiry. By the same token, the judicial councils of the circuits, in submitting the reports required by 28 USC §332(g), should give separate tallies for dismissals after limited inquiry and dismissals based on the complaint alone. The Director of the Administrative Office should do so as well in the summaries published annually in accordance with 28 USC §604(h)(2). This additional information will shed important light on the operation of the system and thus will assist Congress in the performance of its oversight function.
D. Authorizing review by a committee of the judicial council
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Under §372(c)(10), a complainant who is dissatisfied with the chief judge's order dismissing the complaint or terminating the proceeding may seek review of the order by filing a petition addressed to the judicial council of the circuit. The judicial council then considers the petition under rules adopted pursuant to §372(c)(11). That paragraph authorizes each judicial council to ''prescribe such rules for the conduct of proceedings under this subsection, including the processing of petitions for review, as [the council] considers to be appropriate.''
Nothing in section 372(c) explicitly authorizes the council to delegate the review function to a smaller group within the council, and it appears that in most circuits all members of the council participate in the process. However, at least one circuit reads section the statute as authorizing delegation. As reported in Rule 7 of the rules adopted by the Fifth Circuit, ''By standing resolution the judicial council may delegate the review process to rotating panels drawn at random with power to act on behalf of the full council.'' (The rules can be found at the court's web site. See http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/Clerk/ClerksOffice.cfm.)
Reasonable people can disagree as to whether the Fifth Circuit's ''standing resolution'' is authorized by the statute. In any event, the idea is a good one. The Federal Judicial Center study suggested that the Act ''should be amended to permit petitions for review to be determined by a standing or rotating three-judge panel of the judicial council, rather than by the entire council.'' FJC Study at 194. I endorse this suggestion, with one modification: I would require that the review panel consist of at least three members of the council (one of whom must be a district judge), but I would not specify the number in the statute. Some councils may prefer a larger review body; they should not be denied that option.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The reason for allowing panel review is twofold. First, some of the judicial councils are quite large; for example, the Fifth Circuit's has 19 members. Requiring 19 judges to review a chief judge's order dismissing a complaint is not a good use of scarce judicial resources.
Second and more important, vesting the review function in the entire council risks diffusing responsibility. In contrast, if the task is assigned to a group of 3 or 5 judges, those judges can concentrate on the tasks and are likely to put more time and effort into the review process. (For further discussion, see FJC Report at 16163.)
E. Reorganizing section 372(c)
In the current version of section 372(c), the provision governing dismissals by the chief judge is found in paragraph (3), while the provision authorizing review of such orders by the circuit council is found in paragraph (10). If Congress amends the Act, I suggest that the statute should be reorganized so that closely related provisions are arranged in a logical sequence.
In fact, I would go further. As noted at the outset, the provisions of the 1980 Act establishing new procedures for dealing with allegations of misconduct by federal judges were codified in section 372(c) of the Judicial Code. It seems anomalous that matters so important and wide-ranging would be incorporated into Title 28 as a single subsection of an existing section. I think these provisions warrant their own section, and indeed their own chapter, in the Judicial Code. Separate chapters have been established for ''executions and judicial sales'' (Chapter 127), ''Moneys paid into court'' (Chapter 129), and ''Attachment in postal suits'' (Chapter 173). Surely judicial discipline should be put on an equal footing from an organizational perspective.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
This is partly a matter of practicality; a separate chapter, with separate catchlines for each section, would be easier to locate and navigate. But there is also symbolic value in placing the provisions on judicial discipline in a chapter devoted to that subject alone.
III. OTHER ISSUES WARRANTING ATTENTION
The proposals in Part II (other than the suggestion for reorganizing and relocating section 372(c)) draw on existing rules and practices in the circuits as well as the Federal Judicial Center study. For that reason, I offer them with some confidence. (Of course, the particular language should be chosen with care.) Other aspects of the process also warrant scrutiny by the Subcommittee; however, the evidence now available does not point to the need for statutory revision at this time. I discuss them here because I believe it is worthwhile to put the issues on the table as the Subcommittee pursues its oversight responsibilities.
A. Inclusion of reasons for dismissing complaints
Section 372(c)(3) states that the chief judge may dismiss a complaint ''by written order stating his reasons.'' However, the Federal Judicial Center study found that ''not all chief judges' orders of dismissal have provided a statement of the allegations of the complaint and the reasons, as opposed to the conclusions, supporting its dismissal.'' In fact, three of the eight circuits in the study ''had long-standing practices of issuing conclusory form orders to dispose of insubstantial complaints.'' FJC Study at 80.
Even when the authors of the study looked only at ''arguably meritorious allegations,'' they found that the chief judges' orders were not always ''responsive.'' (In assessing ''responsiveness,'' the authors ''looked for whether the chief judge restated [the particular] allegation and responded to it and whether the chief judge stated conclusions or specific reasons for the conclusions.'' FJC Study at 82.)
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The authors of the study anticipated that all circuits would soon be moving to a system under which the chief judge would articulate reasons for dismissing a complaint. That was in 1993. Unfortunately, as far as I am aware, there is no published information that tells us whether this has in fact occurred. If it has, there is no need to do anything. If chief judges in one or more circuits continue to issue ''conclusory form orders,'' that is a matter of concern. This is so for several reasons. Among them:
When a complaint is dismissed with a conclusory form order, the complainant may lack confidence that the chief judge has actually considered the grievance. This will reinforce the sense of mistrust that often underlies the filing of a complaint against a judge.
As pointed out by the National Commission, a non-conclusory statement ''may be criticalto the understanding of those engaged in oversight or evaluation.'' NCJDR at 351.
If some complaints are still being disposed of with a conclusory form order, either the Judicial Conference or Congress should consider imposing a requirement that the chief judge state the reasons for a disposition adverse to the complainant.
B. Visibility of the disciplinary mechanism
One purpose of the mechanism established by the 1980 Act is, of course, to foster public confidence in the federal judiciary. To that end, the mechanism must be visible. Visibility in this context entails two overlapping elements: the availability of the process must be made known to potential complainants, and the results of the process must be made known to all who are interested in the effective operation of the judicial system. On the available evidence, there is a real question whether these goals are being realized. For example:
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
A spot check indicates that the rules governing complaints under section 372(c) are available on the web sites of most of the courts of appeals, but at the district court level the record is much more hit-and-miss. This may be because complaints are filed with the clerk of the court of appeals, but I think that most people would expect to find information about filing complaints concerning a trial judge on the web site of the court on which that judge sits.
The web site of the federal judiciary gives a brief answer to the question, ''How do I file a complaint against a judge?'' However, the page does not include links to anything that might helpthe statute, the Illustrative Rules, a form for filing a complaint, or any other explanatory material. See http://www.uscourts.gov/faq.html.
The orders and memoranda filed by the chief judges of the various circuits are available only at the clerk's office of the circuit where they were issued and at the Federal Judicial Center, to which copies are sent. Anyone wanting to study these dispositions systematically would face formidable logistical obstacles.
The Federal Judicial Center study concluded, after an examination of published orders, that ''[d]issemination of information about interpretations of the Actseems notably absent.'' FJC Study at 88. That report was completed in 1993, but a follow-up search on Westlaw using the same query suggests that the picture has not changed.
It is understandable that judges do not wish to shine the spotlight on judicial misconduct or disability, even when the overwhelming majority of complaints are plainly without merit. However, to the extent that the low visibility is the result of conscious choice (rather than indifference or inadvertence), I think the policy is misguided. A telling vignette comes from the FJC Study (at 129). A chief judge reported:
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
After a newspaper article accusing the judiciary of a cover-up in [a special committee matter which resulted in a private, rather than a public, reprimand], a local reporter wanted to look at 372(c) files. We were able to show him files of reasoned orders. He was very surprised. I think he went away thinking this was an honest ship.
Yet even if the picture were not so positive, visibility would still be essential to the success of the system. This is so for both instrumental and symbolic reasons. At a practical level, the courts benefit if they learn about problems at the earliest possible stage, and complaints under §372(c) can help. But some meritorious complaints will never be filed if the existence of the process is insufficiently publicized. The courts can also benefit in another wayby learning how other courts are handling allegations of misconduct or disability.
Perceptions are also important. Today, the federal judiciary is highly respected. The spate of criminal prosecutions of federal judges that aroused alarm at the time of the National Commission report is happily behind us. But that only means that this is a time for building confidence. A visible complaint process contributes significantly to that goal. Without it, we have no way of knowing whether a paucity of meritorious complaints truly reflects a healthy system or simply a lack of awareness that a complaint procedure exists. Here are some suggestions for enhancing the visibility of the process:
At a minimum, the web site of every federal court should include a prominent link to the rules and forms for filing a complaint under §372(c) concerning a judge of that court.
Chief judges and judicial councils should send more of their non-routine dispositions of §372(c) complaints for on-line publication by Westlaw, Lexis, Findlaw, and other services.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Consideration should be given to asking the courts to send routine dispositions to the Federal Judicial Center in electronic form, so that the dispositions (or at least a selected group) can be made available easily to other courts, to oversight committees in Congress, and to researchers.
The Federal Judicial Center should be encouraged to conduct a follow-up study to the one completed in 1993. This study need not be as elaborate or comprehensive; what we need above all is an analysis of the dispositions already on file at the Center.
Notwithstanding what I have said about enhancing the visibility of the complaint process, one other point deserves emphasis. The formal mechanisms of section 372(c) are not the only methods for dealing with misconduct or disability in the federal judiciary. These other methods will be discussed briefly in Part IV of this statement.
C. Confidentiality in the era of the Internet
As the National Commission observed in its report, some of the most controversial issues surrounding the enactment and implementation of section 372(c) have involved concerns about confidentiality. See NCJDR Report at 34951. In its current version, the statute requires that confidentiality be maintained in ''investigations'' (paragraph (14)), but it does not address issues of confidentiality in cases where no special committee is appointed. The latter, of course, encompass the vast majority of complaints.
The Illustrative Rules fill this gap in two ways. Rule 16 lays down a broad rule of confidentiality for all proceedings under the Act. Rule 17 provides that when a complaint has been finally disposed of, the supporting memoranda will be made available for public inspection at the clerk's office and copies will be sent to the Federal Judicial Center; however, in all dismissals and in most other proceedings, ''the publicly available materials will not disclose the name of the judge complained about without his or her consent.''
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Federal Judicial Center study found that maintenance of confidentiality was a serious problemnot because of anything the judges did, but because outsiders are not bound by rules of confidentiality. ''As a practical matter,'' the study noted, ''a complainant can call a press conference (as many have), disclose the contents of the complaint, and discuss the allegations and the process.'' The study quoted one chief judge: ''If there's a serious allegation, the reality is that confidentiality is unlikely.'' FJC Study at 17879.
The development of the Internet has substantially exacerbated the problem of maintaining confidentiality. This is so not only when allegations are ''serious,'' but also when they are plainly appropriate for dismissal. Today it is not necessary to ''call a press conference;'' a complainantor anyone elsecan place documents on a web site, and they will be instantly available to anyone in the world.
To get a sense of what is available, I did a search on Google. I found less material than I expecteda few complaints and a few orders. One document purported to be an order of dismissal that identified the judge who was the subject of the complaint. The version of the order on file at the Federal Judicial Center does not identify the judge.
On the basis of current information, it does not appear that disclosure of section 372(c) material presents a problem that requires immediate attention. Others at this hearing may have different experiences that suggest a greater urgency. Of course the possible remedies are substantially limited by the First Amendment's protection of rights of expression.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCD. Sharing of the initial review responsibility
One chief judge suggested to the authors of the FJC study that the Act be amended to authorize chief judges to delegate review of complaints to another judge. FJC Study at 186. The judge explained:
The chief judge's job is very time consuming; anything that can be delegated should be. There's no reason the chief judge must be involved in every one of these complaints. The chief judge should be able to decide whether a complaint must be looked at more carefully. The chief judge should hang on to anything that's close or controversial, but most are not; the chief judge could delegate those.
As long as the volume of complaints remains at its current modest levels, it is hard to justify authorizing the chief judge to delegate part of the review function. Nevertheless, I think the idea is worth keeping on the tablethough not necessarily for the reasons quoted above.
First, a central feature of the system of decentralized self-regulation established by the Act is the opportunity for the chief judge to facilitate action that leads to the correction of errant behavior. To be effective, this process may require interpersonal skills that will not always be a chief judge's strong point. (I hasten to add that this comment is not based on the performance of any of the chief judges whose work I have observed.) If another court of appeals judgeperhaps a highly respected senior judgeis willing and able to take on part of the responsibility, there is much to be said for allowing the delegation.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Second, if the judiciary takes vigorous steps to increase the visibility of the §372(c) process, this may result in a substantial increase in the number of complaints filed. Under those circumstances, it would be useful if the chief judge, especially in a large circuit, could delegate part of the review work to another judge.
If Congress were to pursue this suggestion, it might be desirable to include a requirement that any delegation be approved by the judicial council of the circuit.
IV. THE SYSTEM TODAY
Each year, the Director of the Administrative Office of United States Courts publishes a report that tabulates the number of judicial complaints filed and concluded during the preceding year. Table I (attached) presents the data for the last six years. Three things stand out.
First, the number of complaints filed against judges peaked in 1998, with an astonishing 52% increase over 1997. After that, the number has gone down in each successive year. The Director of the Administrative Office has attributed the jump in 1998 to ''the use of relatively new Internet and fax-on-demand services, which made information on procedures for filing complaints more widely accessible.'' 1999 Annual Report at 40. (One wonders, then, why the number dropped so substantially in succeeding years.)
Second, the overwhelming majority of complaints are dismissed, either by the chief judge or by the judicial council upon review of the chief judge's order. In 1999, for example, of the 831 complaints that were concluded, only 15 were not dismissedless than 2%. This includes 2 complaints that were ''withdrawn;'' we do not know what the circumstances of withdrawal were.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Third, the pace of activity has picked up in the last three years. Ten complaints were considered by circuit investigative committees, compared with a total of 3 in the preceding three years. But the numbers are too small, and the information too sparse, to enable us to say that a distinctly different pattern has emerged. Certainly the proportion of complaints that are not dismissed remains very low.
A natural reaction to these figures would be: surely federal judgesgood as they generally arecannot be that good. Either some would-be complainants are not taking advantage of the procedures of section 372(c), or the chief judges and judicial councils are sometimes failing in their duty to act when judges fall short of the standards we expect of them.
Neither possibility can be ruled out. Moreover, the small number of non-frivolous complaints carries less weight than it would if the courts had been more energetic in publicizing the existence of the complaint process. But there are also more benign explanations that may account for the low numbers.
First, the figures do not reflect the informal corrective processes that may take place in the absence of a formal complaint. One of the most important findings of the Federal Judicial Center study is that informal processes often operate very effectively to deal with matters that fall within the potential reach of section 372(c). The study quotes comments by two former chief judges that capture the experience in most of the circuits that the authors visited:
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC''In my experience, the most serious complaints never hit the complaint process.''
''There are more remedial actions taking place outside the complaint process than following formal complaints.''
The full description in the study (at 13144) provides valuable insights into the operation of informal processes.
Second, many instances of judicial misconduct are dealt with through appellate review of particular cases. A good example is the opinion of the District of Columbia Circuit excoriating Judge Thomas Jackson for his out-of-court comments on the pending Microsoft case. See United States v. Microsoft Corp., 253 F.3d 34, 107117 (D.C. Cir. 2001), http://ecfp.cadc.uscourts.gov/MS-Docs/1720/0.pdf. Not only was the public reprimand as harsh as any that might be meted out by the Judicial Council under section 372(c), but after the widespread publicity that the opinion received, we can be confident that no federal judge will engage in similar behavior for a very long time to come. If we agree with the Illustrative Rules that the thrust of the 1980 Act is ''essentially forward-looking,'' with the emphasis on ''correcting conditions that interfere with the proper administration of justice in the courts,'' we can say that the system has worked, albeit not through section 372(c).
Finally, the most efficient method of maintaining integrity in the federal judiciary lies in rigorous scrutiny in the appointment process. Nominees today receive that kind of scrutiny, including ''full-field'' investigations by the FBI. I believe that this process helps to explain why there are so few non-frivolous complaints against federal judges.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I do not suggest that these considerations diminish the importance of section 372(c). On the contrary, section 372(c) will continue to play an essential role in dealing with misconduct or disability on the part of federal judges. In particular, informal processes could not operate as efficaciously as they do if the possibility of formal proceedings did not loom in the background. As the Federal Judicial Center study puts it (at 13637), the chief judge ''bargain[s] in the shadow of the Act.''
Today's oversight hearing is a valuable step in making the section 372(c) process more effective. The amendments to the statute suggested in Part II can effect modest improvements in the system. But the greatest need is to enhance the visibility of the complaint procedure. I hope the judiciary will pursue the suggestions in Part III. If no progress is made, Congress may have to step in.
V. ISSUES RELATING TO JUDICIAL DISQUALIFICATION
Disqualification or recusal of judges (the two terms are used interchangeably) is covered by sections 144 and 455 of the Judicial Code. Section 455 was completely rewritten in 1974. The statute requires a federal judge to disqualify himself in five specified circumstances, set forth in 28 USC §455(b), and also ''in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.'' In this part of my statement I discuss two issues relating to the disqualification of judges.
A. Timely disclosure of judges' conflicts of interest
From time to time, a newspaper or advocacy group will publish an investigative report revealing that one or more judges have participated in cases notwithstanding a conflict of interest that mandated disqualification under 28 USC §455(b). Perhaps the best known example is the study conducted by the Kansas City Star in 1998. The newspaper reported that federal judges in Kansas City and elsewhere ''repeatedly have presided over lawsuits against companies in which they own stock.'' More recently, the Community Rights Counsel (CRC) publicized a research report indicating ''that in 1997 at least eight federal appellate judgesruled on the merits in at least 17 federal appeals in which they had a disqualifying conflict of interest.''
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The judges attributed their participation in the conflict cases to innocent mistakes or memory lapses. And the Star ''found no evidence that any judge benefited personally or let his stock holdings influence his rulings.'' (The CRC offered no comparable disclaimer.) Nevertheless, episodes of this kind are harmful to the judiciary. At best, the judgesand perhaps the winning lawyerssuffer embarrassment. At worst, a cloud is cast over the judges' integrity.
This is another area where technology can be helpful. The Star emphasized that to determine whether a judge has a conflict of interest, the lawyer or litigant had to request copies of disclosure statements that were available only from the Administrative Office in Washington, D.C. Although the Judicial Conference of the United States has now authorized release of the disclosure reports to groups that want to post them on the Internet, it appears that the posting has not yet occurred.
The Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa (and perhaps other federal courts) have found a better way. Here is how it works.
The web sites of those districts post ''conflict lists'' for the judges who sit on those courts. See, e.g., http://www.iand.uscourts.gov/. Each list is preceded by this statement: ''Pursuant to this court's policy of disclosing relationships that pose potential or actual conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise, Judge [X] will not be handling cases involving . . .'' The list that follows may include names of corporations, individuals, and law firms.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Court rules require attorneys in civil cases to ''review the list and immediately notify the Clerk of Court if it appears the presiding judge may have a conflict with any association, firm, partnership, corporation, or other artificial entity either related to any party or having a pecuniary interest in the case.''
The Northern District of Iowa goes one step further than the Southern. At the bottom of each list is the following notation: ''Persons having knowledge that a case has been assigned to Judge [X] involving an entity or individual described above, or one related thereto, should immediately notify the Clerk of Court in writing of the potential conflict.''
On the available evidence, the Iowa system is a forward-looking use of Internet technology that should be a model for all federal courts. There are at least four benefits from this system.
1. By allowingand indeed requiringthe parties to take part in the conflict-identification process, the Iowa courts substantially increase the likelihood that conflicts will be discovered early in a lawsuit. Court personnel still conduct their own check, but two pairs of eyes are better than one. And of course the parties and their lawyers have a special incentive to make sure that their case is not heard by a judge who has a conflict.
2. By placing the list on the court's web site, the court makes it easy for interested observers, including advocacy groups like the CRC, to monitor judges' compliance with conflict of interest rules.
3. Unlike the financial disclosure forms, which are filed once a year and often are out of date by the time they are made public, the web site listing can be updated whenever changes in a judge's portfolio or other events require it. Courts can easily establish procedures for judges to inform their clerks' offices of such developments.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
4. The Iowa system bypasses the concerns about judges' safety that initially led the Judicial Conference to resist sharing of the disclosure forms. The web site list provides only the necessary information: Judge X is recused in cases involving Corporation Y. This could be because the judge owns stock in the corporation, because he represented the corporation before going on the bench, or for some other reason.
Admittedly, the system is not perfect. The most serious problem is that judges do not always notify the Clerk of Court of new conflicts, so the list is not necessarily accurate and up-to-date. Nevertheless, the Iowa system is a tremendous improvement over the practice elsewhere.
In March 1999, the Judicial Conference of the United States rejected a proposal to ''encourag[e] all courts to maintain in the clerk's office a recusal list for each judge that would be available to litigants upon written request.'' According to the Washington Post (Sept. 13, 1999), the judges cited ''security and privacy concerns.'' However, that position appears to have been superseded by the vote one year later to allow release of financial disclosure forms for posting on the Internet. In this light, I suggest the following steps:
All federal courts should adopt the Iowa system and post on their web sites conflict lists for all judges of that court.
Each court should adopt, implement, and monitor procedures for assuring that judges inform the Clerk of Court, on a regular basis, of changes in stock holdings or other circumstances that will require changes in the conflict lists.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Judges should be encouraged to establish arrangements with their brokers to receive notification of relevant portfolio changes in a form that can be forwarded immediately to the Clerk of Court. E-mail would seem like a good tool for this purpose.
Technology holds out other possibilities as well. Lawyers are familiar with ''conflict checking'' software that is used to avoid conflicts of interest when a law firm is considering taking on a new client. Similar software could check judges' conflict lists against the ''statements of interest'' filed by litigants in civil suits. But even if such software is developed, the Iowa system would still be a desirable backstop, if only because it enables outside groups to monitor compliance with disqualification rules.
B. Effect of judicial disqualification in en banc voting
Today's oversight hearing on judicial discipline and disqualification offers an appropriate opportunity to call the Subcommittee's attention to a minor statutory malfunction that otherwise is likely to remain uncorrected. The issue involves the effect of recusals by court of appeals judges when the court votes on whether to hear a case en banc.
28 USC §46(c) provides that en banc hearing can be ordered ''by a majority of the circuit judges of the circuit who are in regular active service.'' The circuits are divided on whether ''majority'' means (a) a majority of all active judges or (b) a majority of the active judges who are not recused. For convenience, I will refer to rule ''a'' as the ''absolute majority rule.'' Five circuitsthe Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eleventh, and District of Columbianow follow that rule. See Judith A. McKenna, Laural A. Hooper & Mary Clark, Case Management Procedures in the Federal Courts of Appeals 23 (Federal Judicial Center 2000).
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In circuits that require an absolute majority, en banc rehearing can be denied even though a majority of the judges who would participate in rehearing vote in favor of it. This means that recused judges are having an influence on case outcomes that by definition they should not have.
The potential consequences of the rule can be seen by considering a case that was scheduled for rehearing en banc in November in the Third Circuit. In In re Cendant Corp. Litigation, 264 F.3d 301 (3d Cir. 2001), the panel ruled 21 that the district court properly enjoined an arbitration proceeding. The majority consisted of 2 active judges. Four of the circuit's 12 active judges were recused. Under the absolute majority rule, en banc rehearing would have been foreclosed even if all 6 of the non-recused active non-panel members had voted for en banc.
The absolute majority rule means that recused judges are, in effect, paired with non-recused judges who vote in favor of en banc rehearing. Each judge who is recused cancels out the affirmative vote of a judge who is not recused.
The arguments against the absolute majority rule are set forth in detail in a lucid opinion by Judge Edward Carnes of the Eleventh Circuit in Gulf Power Co. v. Fed. Communications Comm'n (No. 986222), 226 F.3d 1220 (11th Cir. 2000) (opinion on denial of rehearing en banc). I commend Judge Carnes's analysis to you.
Some years ago, a certiorari petition asked the Supreme Court to resolve the intercircuit conflict on the interpretation of 28 USC §46(c). The Court denied review. See Arnold v. Eastern Air Lines, Inc., 712 F.2d 899 (4th Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 1040 (1984). (At that time the Fourth Circuit did not follow the absolute majority rule.) As far as I know, the Appellate Rules Committee of the Judicial Conference has not taken up the issue.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The problem arises because of disagreement over the interpretation of an Act of Congress. It is therefore appropriate that Congress resolve the matter. A simple solution would be to add at the end of the first sentence of §46(c) the words ''and who are not disqualified,'' so that the statute would provide that en banc hearing can be ordered ''by a majority of the circuit judges of the circuit who are in regular active service and who are not disqualified.'' Another approach would be to add a new sentence or subsection defining ''majority'' for purposes of the rule.
(The Third Circuit, although rejecting the absolute majority rule, does require that ''the judges who are not disqualified constitute a majority of the judges who are in regular active service.'' Internal Operating Procedures 9.5.3. I would not include that limitation.)
VI. CONCLUSION: THE COURTS AND THE INTERNET
Assuring the integrity of the federal judiciary while respecting the imperative of judicial independence will always be a challenging task. We are fortunate to live in an era when advancing technologies offer new ways of meeting the challenge.
Today, advancing technology is represented by the Internet. The Internet is a uniquely powerful and effective tool for communication. It is a tool that did not exist when Congress last revised the statute on judicial misconduct, much less when Congress rewrote the provisions dealing with judges' conflict of interest.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The current statutes represent a careful and balanced approachalthough, as outlined above, some fine-tuning is in order. But optimum operation of the systems has been hampered because people often do not have the information they need. That is where the Internet comes in.
The federal judiciary has shown itself to be innovative and service-oriented in its use of the Internet in adjudication and case management. Appellate opinions can be found on line on the day they are filed. Dockets can be searched through PACER. Most intriguingly, some courts have initiated electronic filing systems ''permitting attorneys in selected civil cases to file documents with the Court and deliver them to opposing parties directly from their computers using the Internet.'' See, e.g., https://ecf.cand.uscourts.gov/.
The same spirit can be applied to the matters that are the subject of this oversight hearing. As explained in Part III, courts can use the Internet to enhance the visibility of the procedure for filing complaints against judges. This will make the process more credible as well as more effective. As discussed in Part V, courts can use the Internet to help judges avoid inadvertent violations of the conflict of interest rules.
These suggestions are only a beginning. Other innovative uses of the Internetand of technologies not yet inventedwill permit the courts to further strengthen the mechanisms for preserving judicial integrity without impinging on judicial independence.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
FEDERAL JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT
In the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980, Congress sought to provide a mechanism for identifying and correcting judicial misconduct, without intruding on judicial independence. The Act struck an appropriate balance by establishing a system of decentralized self-regulation. The basic framework of the Act is sound, but even the best of systems may require modification to meet changes in conditions or perceptions over a period of time. In particular, the emergence of the Internet as a ubiquitous vehicle for communication calls for rethinking of procedures established in the pre-Internet era.
Proposed amendments. Experience suggests several modest modifications to the statutory scheme. The statute should be amended to explicitly recognize the authority of the chief judge (a) to conduct a limited inquiry into the validity of the complaint and (b) to dismiss the complaint if the limited inquiry demonstrates that the allegations lack any factual foundation or are conclusively refuted by objective evidence. Section 372(c)(3)A) should more fully specify other bases for dismissal that can be identified on the face of the complaint. The Act should be amended to permit petitions for review to be considered by a standing or rotating panel of the judicial council, rather than by the entire council.
Visibility of the process. A major purpose of the mechanism established by the 1980 Act is to foster public confidence in the federal judiciary. To that end, the mechanism must be visible. Visibility in this context entails two overlapping elements: the availability of the process must be made known to potential complainants, and the results of the process must be made known to all who are interested in the effective operation of the judicial system. On the available evidence, there is a real question whether these goals are being realized.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
At a minimum, the web site of every federal court should include a prominent link to the rules and forms for filing a complaint under §372(c) concerning a judge of that court. Beyond this, in the age of the Internet, more can and should be done to disseminate information about the disposition of complaints by chief judges, councils, and special committees. The Federal Judicial Center should be encouraged to conduct a study of the dispositions already on file there.
Assessing the record. The number of complaints filed against judges peaked in 1998; after that, the number has gone down in each successive year. The overwhelming majority of complaints are dismissed, either by the chief judge or by the judicial council upon review of the chief judge's order. The paucity of meritorious complaints may reflect the availability of alternate mechanisms for correcting judicial misconduct, notably appellate review and informal processes. But the record is less reassuring than it would be if the courts had been more energetic in publicizing the existence of the complaint process.
Conflicts of interest. From time to time, a newspaper or advocacy group will publish an investigative report revealing that one or more judges have participated in cases notwithstanding a conflict of interest that mandated disqualification under 28 USC §455(b). To minimize such situations, all federal courts should adopt the system now used in the Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa: posting on their web sites conflict lists for all judges of that court.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Recusals and en banc voting. 28 USC §46(c) provides that en banc hearing can be ordered ''by a majority of the circuit judges of the circuit who are in regular active service.'' Some circuits interpret ''majority'' to mean a majority of all active judges, including judges who are recused. This means that recused judges are having an influence on case outcomes that by definition they should not have. The statute should be amended to make clear that recused judges are not counted.
Mr. COBLE. We are pleased to have been joined by the distinguished gentleman from east Tennessee, Mr. Jenkins.
Good to have you here, Bill.
Mr. Remington, the pressure is on you. Both witnesses came within the 5-minute cycle. So heavy hangs the ax over your head.
STATEMENT OF MICHAEL J. REMINGTON, PARTNER, DRINKER BIDDLE & REATH L.L.P.
Mr. REMINGTON. I hope to meet your expectations, Mr. Chairman. Thank you very much for the opportunity to testify.
I would also like to thank you and Mr. Berman for your very kind introductions. It is true that I spent 13 years working for this Subcommittee, and it is the best Subcommittee on the Judiciary Committee; I am biased in that regard. I would like to commend you and the Ranking Member, Mr. Berman, for your sterling leadership of this Subcommittee.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I recently spoke with former Chairman Bob Kastenmeier about this hearing, and he sends his best greetings and he underlined the importance of this particular subject before you. This hearing would also please the former Ranking Minority Member of the Full Committee, Hamilton Fish, who served on the Commission, and just before his untimely passing in 1996, called me to his house and asked me for a status update of the Commission's recommendations.
I will make four points. First, outsiders sometimes forget, as you stated, Mr. Chairman, that House rules require each standing Committee to examine on a continuing basis the effectiveness of laws and programs within the Committee's jurisdiction. Oversight is crucial to good government. Oversight actually improves interbranch communications and relations. Sometimes judges and executive officials forget about this fact.
Upon enactment of the 1980 act, this Subcommittee was specifically requested on the House floor by Caldwell Butler, former Republican Member, to exercise oversight over judicial discipline. The National Commission underlined the importance of this oversight responsibility.
Second, article III provides that Federal judges shall hold their offices during good behavior and shall receive compensation which shall not be diminished while in office. These words, alongside the impeachment clauses, represent the entire constitutional structure for addressing issues of judicial misconduct.
Until 1980, the law of judicial discipline was essentially the law of impeachment. The 1980 act, the product of this Subcommittee, recognized that judicial independence and public accountability could exist mutually, side by side. The act satisfied constitutional parameters by asking the judiciary to self-regulate and thereby reserving removal authority to the House and Senate. The act established a mechanism within the judicial branch to consider and respond to complaints against judges.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Most complaints, virtually all complaints, are handled initially by the chief judges of the circuits and then by the circuit counsel; while impeachable offenses, if they are identified, are forwarded to this Committee through the Judicial Conference. I agree with Professor Hellman that the 1980 act is working reasonably well.
Third, in 1990, Congress created the National Commission and asked it to study problems related to judicial misconduct and to report to Congress, the Chief Justice and the President.
In 1993, the Commission issued its final report fulfilling its statutory mandate. None of the Commission's recommendations contemplated any constitutional amendments and none have been adopted or ratified in the interim. The Commission nonetheless identified a good number of statutory rule and administrative reforms that should occur within and between the three branches; and I have given you a copy of those recommendations with a status update.
In 1997, I was pleased to see that the ABA Commission on Separation of Powers noted that Congress had not been sufficiently apprised of the National Commission's report and that hearings such as this one, Mr. Chairman, should be held to consider appropriate responses. As I said, my written statement gives you a status update. I would be grateful if staff and the Committee Members would take a look at the recommendations that have not yet been implemented.
Fourth, some final thoughts: Informal action has been and remains the judiciary's most common response to episodes of judicial misconduct. Professor Hellman made that point. I agree with it. The Federal Judicial Center, a jewel in the judiciary's crown, will soon be releasing a monograph on Federal case law, interpreting the judicial disqualification statutes. This monograph should be very helpful to the Subcommittee.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Ethics in Government Act requires all judges to file personal financial reports containing a full statement of assets, income and liabilities, as well as those of spouses and dependent children. With consideration for security concerns, these reports should be readily available to the public.
There is no compelling need to create an administrative mechanism within the judicial branch to review judicial education and training programs attended by Federal judges. A statutory cure is worse than the disease. We trust judges with the Republic; we can trust them with judicial education. However, judges must routinely consider the propriety of attending all-expense-paid seminars; and the overall value of any gift must be reported.
In conclusion, I agree with Mr. Berman's statement that our law must ensure complete impartiality. In today's climate, ask yourselves whether you want a strong and independent judiciary that maintains the highest level of ethics and conduct. I hope my testimony will assist your affirmative response to that question.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you, Mr. Remington. And you cause nostalgia to rear its head when you testify.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Remington follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF MICHAEL J. REMINGTON
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to testify before the Subcommittee on the important subject of ''the operations of federal judicial misconduct and recusal statutes.'' In a time of terrorism and turmoil, the functioning of our institutions of government is critically important. The federal judicial branch that has served this nation so well for so long cannot be taken for granted. An independent federal judiciary, which resolves not only constitutional questions but also statutory controversies arising from this country's criminal, antitrust, environmental and intellectual property laws, to name a few, is a strong judiciary. But it must also be an accountable and impartial judiciary that maintains the highest ethical standards.
By way of personal background, I was a counsel to this Subcommittee for nearly thirteen years, and I served as its Chief Counsel from 1983 until 1990. I previously served as a prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice and as Deputy Legislative Affairs Officer in the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. I left the committee staff in early 1991 to become Director of the National Commission on Judicial Discipline and Removal (''National Commission'') where I served for 18 months.
I currently am a partner in the law firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP where I co-chair the firm's intellectual property group. I am also an adjunct faculty member at two local-area law schools: Catholic University's Columbus School of Law (where I teach legislation) and George Mason University School of Law (where I teach copyright). I have no client interests in the matters before the Subcommittee this morning. This is my first formal appearance as a witness before the Subcommittee.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Permit me to make a personal observation at the outset. I routinely follow the operations and activities of the Subcommittee, and I am impressed beyond measure by your stewardship, Mr. Chairman, and that of the Ranking Minority Member, Mr. Berman, and by the leadership of the full committee under Chairman Sensenbrenner and the Ranking Minority Member, Mr. Conyers. The Subcommittee and the full Committee are in good hands.
You may be interested in knowing that my last legislative testimony on the subject before you was in Islamabad, Pakistan, before a joint session of staff and members of the Pakistan Senate and National Assembly. On behalf of The Asia Foundation, I discussed parallel subjects of judicial and legislative independence. As we speak, these issues are of increasing importance worldwide.
Two days before his untimely passing in 1996, I was fortunate enough to be with Hamilton Fish, the former ranking member of this Committee and member (while a Member of Congress) of the National Commission. Mr. Fish was a key and conscientious contributor, along with the former chairman of the Subcommittee, Robert W. Kastenmeier, who served as chair of the National Commission after his retirement. Among other items on his mind, Mr. Fish wanted an update on implementation of the National Commission's recommendations. This hearing would please Mr. Fish. I recently spoke with Bob Kastenmeier who not only sends his best greetings to the Subcommittee but underlines the importance of the subject being scrutinized.
Not long ago, in June of 1986, this Subcommittee was referred Chairman Sensenbrenner's impeachment resolution, and was obliged to drop all other legislative business in order to hold a hearing into the conduct of Judge Harry E. Claiborne (a judge of the United States District Court of Nevada who had been convicted of two felonies and was incarcerated at the time) and to draft articles of impeachment. Almost four months later, on October 9, 1986, the United States Senate removed Judge Claiborne from office.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
This Subcommittee craftedwith the cooperation of the federal judiciary and then Chief Justice Warren E. Burgerthe Judicial Councils Reform and Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980 (the ''Act'' or ''1980 Act'').(see footnote 1) The Act was the product of extensive dialogue between the legislative and judicial branches of government. Congress made its concern evident to the judiciary that there be in place a formal and credible supplement to the impeachment process for resolving complaints of misconduct or disability brought against federal judges, while the judiciary revealed to Congress its concern that any such system not prove to be a cure worse than the disease.
In 1986, Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole, in the wake of the Claiborne impeachment and removal proceedings, proposed the statutory establishment of a study group to examine the scope of the problem of judicial discipline and impeachment. A similar proposal was introduced in early 1990 by Chairman Kastenmeier and Ranking Member Carlos Moorhead. The measure passed both the House and Senate in late October, and was signed by President George Bush on December 1, 1990. By that time, two other federal judges had been impeached (and removed from office) and two others prosecuted for violation of the federal criminal laws.
In my testimony, I will cover four issues: first, the need for affirmative and continuing oversight of judicial discipline statutes and methods; second, a brief assessment of the 1980 Act; third, a review of the recommendations of the National Commission, with a status update; and, fourth, a brief analysis of other judicial discipline methods and laws.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As you know, the Rules of the House of Representatives require each standing committee to ''. . . review and study on a continuing basis, the application, administration, execution, and effectiveness of laws and programs addressing subjects within its jurisdiction. . . .'' Rule X, clause 2, 107th Congress. In addition, each committee is further required continually, not just periodically, to review and study the operation of federal entities which have authority over laws within the Committee's jurisdiction, any conditions or circumstances that may indicate the desirability of enacting new or additional legislation, and to undertake future research and forecasting on matters within the Committee's jurisdiction.
The importance of oversight is uncontestable because it assists the Congress in understanding how particular laws are being implemented and how government programs are being administered. Effective oversight is also very useful for government officials responsible for administering programs because it gives them an opportunity to explain and justify their decisions and priorities. It also gives them the chance to hear the views, including criticism, of Members of Congress who control their budgets and can rewrite legislation. Oversight involves two-way communications designed to identify any subjects that could become serious problems, and then attempts to resolve differences. Because it instills appreciation of each other's processes and problems, oversight improves inter-branch relations.
As compared to other standing committees, the Judiciary Committee does not have a subcommittee with overall oversight responsibility. Rather, oversight is often exercised by the specific subcommittees. Historically, this Subcommittee has been very diligent in exercising its oversight responsibilities, including over the federal judicial branch of government. And the judicial branch generally is receptive to that oversight. A representative of the Judicial Conference specifically referenced this Subcommittee, stating that the Conference ''has thoroughly cooperated in that oversightand in fact has repeatedly sought and is now seeking more of it.''(see footnote 2) Upon enactment of the 1980 Act, this Subcommittee was specifically requested to exercise oversight of judicial discipline. For example, Representative Caldwell Butler stated: ''I would like to impress on my colleagues the importance of conducting congressional oversight in this most sensitive area.'' On behalf of the Subcommittee, Chairman Kastenmeier promised ''vigorous'' oversight. He kept his promise. Periodic oversight was instrumental in reform by the judicial branch of rules promulgated to govern proceedings under the 1980 Act (the Illustrative Rules Governing Complaints of Judicial Misconduct and Disability), and led to statutory amendments to the Act in 1988 and 1990. This oversight hearing is part of that continuum.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Not without controversy and debate, the National Commission specifically considered the issue of oversight of judicial discipline and confirmed that the ''House Committee on the Judiciary, within its jurisdiction, [should] exercise periodic oversight of judicial discipline, judicial ethics, and criminal prosecutions of federal judges.'' In the view of the Commission, congressional oversight will help the judicial branch enforce judicial ethics (including judicial disqualification and recusal) and administer the 1980 Act so as to prevent conditions that could lead to discipline and impeachment. In this regard, oversight will promote judicial accountability. It will also help the legislative branch to understand how well the judiciary is generally doing with its self-administration of judicial discipline matters. That understanding will protect judicial independence by reducing the possibility that the Congress might enact a different disciplinary scheme.(see footnote 3)
A key aspect of oversight of judicial discipline is written into 28 U.S.C. §604(h)(2), where the Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts must include in his annual report a summary of judicial discipline and disability complaints, ''indicating the general nature of such complaints in which action has been taken.'' Without the Director's annual reports, it is very difficult to assess the functioning of the 1980 Act.(see footnote 4)
Also, oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice can be very useful. In the five prosecutions of federal judges in the 1980s, there was apparently no timely communication to enable the House to have any meaningful say in the decision that criminal prosecution would precede impeachment. Congress was surprised by the prosecutions. The communication problems should change, as the Commission recommends. In addition, explicit and implicit commitments were made during impeachment trials to examine alleged prosecutorial misconduct in the criminal cases of the federal judges. Oversight can be helpful in such matters to assure the Congress that its own impeachment powers are not being manipulated improperly, and to develop a mechanism for communication between the House and the Department.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
As part of its oversight, the Subcommittee should receive testimony from representatives of the judicial and executive branches. To promote its understanding of the functioning of the judicial misconduct statutes, the Subcommittee should also engage in informal meetings with high-level representatives of the other two branches.
III. THE 1980 ACT
The U.S. Constitution provides that federal judges shall ''hold their Offices during good Behavior,'' and shall receive a Compensation ''which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.'' Art. III, 1. These words alongside the Impeachment Clauses represent the entire constitutional structure for addressing issues of judicial discipline, disability, removal, and compensation. The Framers worked long and hard over the system of checks and balances within the federal government. They designed impeachment as the only check on the judicial branch of government. In Federalist No. 79, Alexander Hamilton discussed the subject of judicial accountability:
''The precautions for their responsibility are comprised in the article respecting impeachments. They are liable to be impeached for mal-conduct by the House of Representatives, and tried by the Senate, and if convicted, may be dismissed from office and disqualified for holding any other. This is the only provision on the point, which is consistent with the necessary independence of the judicial character, and is the only one which we find in our own constitution in respect to our own judges'' (emphasis added).
Until 1980, the law of judicial discipline was largely the law of impeachment.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The 1980 Act recognized that judicial independence and public accountability are not mutually exclusive. Prior to enactment, one highly respected federal judge (the Honorable Frank M. Johnson, Jr.) noted: ''judicial independence must incorporate some notion of accountability.''(see footnote 5) The 1980 Act satisfied constitutional parameters by asking the judiciary to self-regulate and by reserving removal authority to the House and Senate. The Act establishes procedures and a mechanism within the judicial branch to consider and respond to complaints against judges. Most complaints are handled initially by the chief judges of the circuits and then by the judicial councils of the circuits, but when impeachable offenses are identified, the councils and the Judicial Conference are empowered to refer the matter directly to Congress.
A. Circuit Councils. Section 332 of title 28, United States Code, provides that each circuit shall have a judicial council. The circuit councils are the workhorses of federal judicial administration. Historically, the councils were the handiwork of Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, who had the active support of the Chairman of this Committee, Representative Hatton Sumners, whose portrait adorns this room's walls. Chairman Sumners had been a manager in the lengthy impeachment trail in 1936 of Judge Halstead Ritter. Based on his experience, Chairman Sumners concluded that there had to be a better mechanism to discipline federal judges. The result was the establishment of a decentralized entity with broad administrative authority and responsibility.
As regards judicial discipline, however, the councils did not fulfill their original vision. When a case involving the authority of a circuit council to discipline a judge finally reached the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court found statutory language concerning the council's power to be ambiguous. Chandler v. Judicial Council of the Tenth Circuit, 398 U.S. 74 (1970). In an important footnote, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger supported the concept of statutorily granting the councils, as administrative bodies, broadened enforcement authority with clarification of procedures to review council orders. Id. at 85, n. 6.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
That is exactly what happened in 1980 when Congress enlarged the authority of the councils to include judicial discipline and disability and established a review mechanism within the judiciary.(see footnote 6) Congress opted against the establishment of an independent ''judicial misconduct and tenure'' commission with delegation of the removal function to the commission (which was thought to be of dubious constitutionality).(see footnote 7)
B. Judicial Discipline. Section 372(c) of title 28, United States Code, sets forth a way for any person to complain about a federal judge who the person believes ''has engaged in conduct prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts'' or ''is unable to discharge all the duties of office by reason of mental or physical disability.'' Subsection (c) also provides a procedure for the handling of such complaints and permits the councils to adopt rules for the consideration of complaints. The statutory scheme creates a tiered response within the judiciary for responses to complaints, with authority residing initially in the chief judge of the circuit (who can dismiss complaints and even fashion a complaint, if one has not been filed), with assignment to special committees, if necessary, to investigate complaints, then review by the circuit council and ultimately the Judicial Conference in the most serious cases. The list of sanctions set forth in the statute includes: ordering, on a temporary basis, no further assignment of cases; censoring or reprimanding by private communication; censoring or reprimanding by public announcement; certifying a disability; requesting a voluntary retirement; and such other action as the council considers appropriate (except removal from office of a lifetime-tenured judge).
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In crafting the 1980 Act, this Subcommittee took extra steps to ensure its constitutionality. The Subcommittee received extensive testimony, and requested and reviewed a study of the American Law Division of the Library of Congress on the subject. The House Committee Report had a special section on constitutionality. See H. Rep. No. 1313, 96th Cong., 2nd Sess. (1980). The Senate requested its own analysis and debated the subject at some length on the Senate floor.
Every court that has adjudicated cases challenging the Act has found that it passes constitutional muster. In 1986, the 11th Circuit found that the statute, far from being an unconstitutional encroachment on the autonomy of the federal judiciary, strengthened the independence of the judicial branch as a whole. In re Certain Complaints Under Investigation, 783 F. 2d 1488, 1507 (11th Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 106 S. Ct. 3273. Recently, the D.C. Circuit held that Article III of the Constitution does not clothe federal judges with absolute immunity from lesser sanctions (from public reprimand to taking cases away) contemplated by the 1980 Act. See McBryde v. Committee to Review Circuit Council Conduct and Disability Orders of the Judicial Conference of the United States, 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 20843 (Sept. 21, 2001).
IV. THE NATIONAL COMMISSION
A. Background about the Commission. In 1990, Congress assigned three duties to the National Commission: (1) to investigate and study problems and issues related to the discipline and removal from office of lifetime-tenured federal judges; (2) to evaluate the advisability of proposing alternatives to current arrangements for responding to any identified problems and issues; and (3) to submit to Congress, the Chief Justice and the President a report of its findings and recommendations. The Commission was not given authority to make recommendations regarding the judicial appointments process.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In 1991, following selection and appointment of the thirteen commissioners by all appointing authorities, Bob Kastenmeier was selected Chairman. The Commission formally commenced its work in early 1992, reviewing presentations concerning historical, constitutional, and current perspectives on judicial discipline and the removal of life-tenured judges from office, and developing a general plan for identifying policy questions genuinely in need of review. The Commission arranged for consultancy studies(see footnote 8) individually designed to explain existing laws, policies, perceptions, and the historical background. In addition, major contributions to the research effort were made by two entities within this Subcommittee's oversight jurisdiction, the Federal Judicial Center(see footnote 9) and the State Justice Institute. Further, the Library of Congress Law Library prepared a report on the removal and discipline of judges in twenty-six countries and five international judicial organizations. Finally, a number of highly respected law firms contributed to the research efforts. A list of the studies, many of which have lasting value, is attached as Appendix I. Several were used during the impeachment proceedings of President Clinton.
The Commission also held public hearings, receiving testimony from more than thirty witnesses, including a Congressman (Rep. Don Edwards of California, who had served as a House Manager), a former Senator who had served as a Senate Trial Committee chairman in recent impeachments (Charles McC. Mathias), four additional Representatives with developed views about the House's impeachment role (Representative Applegate, Representative Field, Representative Hyde, and Representative Sangmeister), two Senators who had served on Trial Committees (Senator Rudman and Senator Levin), the Senate author of a constitutional amendment (Senator Thurmond), attorneys who had served either Congress or judges in impeachment proceedings, a Deputy Attorney General of the United States, and representatives of concerned public interest organizations. A Roundtable Discussion of constitutional issues related to discipline and removal of life-tenured federal judges was conducted by four constitutional law professors and a constitutional historian.(see footnote 10)
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
After a series of public meetings, the Commission issued a draft report and tentative recommendations which were subjected to three further days of hearings. On August 2, 1993, the National Commission issued its final report. See Report of the National Commission on Judicial Discipline & Removal (August 1993) (''Report'').
B. The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Nixon. While the Commission was conducting its inquiry, on January 13, 1993, in Nixon v. United States, 506 U.S. 224 (1993), the United States Supreme Court upheld the Senate's authority to determine the method it uses for conducting impeachment trials, concluding that the challenge to the Senate's use of a Rule XI committee by former Judge Nixon was not judicially reviewable. The decision underlined a textual commitment in the Constitution regarding assignment of ''sole'' impeachment authority to the House (to accuse) and the Senate (to judge). Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Rehnquist stated that ''judicial involvement in impeachment proceedings, even if only for purposes of judicial review, is counterintuitive because it would eviscerate the 'important constitutional check' placed on the judiciary by the Framers.'' 506 U.S. at 235. The House of Representatives should be mindful of the Nixon decision because in exercising its sole power to indict a federal judge for violation of the ''good behavior'' clause of the Constitution, judicial review is not possible unless a textual provision of the Constitution is violated.
C. Report and Recommendations. Permit a brief summary of what I consider to be the more significant recommendations and conclusions of the National Commission. All the recommendations and conclusions, with an implementation update, are set forth in Appendix II. Despite the fact that I am testifying in my own capacity, I have no reason to criticize any of the National Commission's recommendations. In fact, I readily embrace them.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
1. Constitutional Questions. First, the National Commission concluded that removal from office of judges who serve on good behavior under Article III by means other than impeachment and conviction would require a constitutional amendment. None of the Commission's recommendations contemplated any constitutional revisions. The reason is that none was deemed necessary. In the final analysis, the Commission did not find that the House and Senate should be relieved of the power and responsibility to make an independent political judgment about the fitness of a federal judge to remain in office.
[Status: no constitutional amendments to federal judicial discipline arrangements have been ratified.]
Having found the discipline and removal system not broken beyond repair, requiring a constitutional restructuring, the Commission nonetheless identified a good number of statutory, rule and administrative reforms that should occur within, among and between the three branches of the federal government. However, the Commission concluded that if current arrangements become wholly inadequate and incapable of consequential improvements, radical reforms should be seriously contemplated. But having carefully considered the relevant mechanisms of the three branches, the Commission also concluded that substantial improvements are possible, and its recommendations are crafted to achieve that end.
The American Bar Association, which established a special task force to monitor and evaluate the work of the National Commission, concurred with the Commission's overall views and adopted a policy in favor of the 1980 Act. In a 1997 report on ''An Independent Judiciary,'' the ABA Commission on Separation of Powers and Judicial Independence noted that Congress had not been sufficiently apprised of the Report of the National Commission and that hearings (such as this one) should be held to consider appropriate response to problems in the judicial discipline and removal arena.(see footnote 11) This should be done before consideration of any proposals for additional legislation or constitutional amendments in the area of judicial discipline.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. Chairman, it took almost two centuries of American history to create a judicial discipline mechanism; eight years after the National Commission's Report is a blink of an historical eye.
2. The Legislative Branch. When the situation presents itself, the House of Representatives should give serious thought to expediting the impeachment process, through acting prior to prosecution of a judge or immediately after conviction. Before the criminal trial of a federal judge, the House and the Justice Department should consult each other to determine together whether impeachment should precede the criminal trial. Subject to statutory and rules exceptions, the House should expeditiously obtain relevant wiretap and grand jury information relating to the possible House impeachment and Senate trial of a federal judge.
In addition to conducting oversight, the Commission recognized the key role that this Committee plays in the impeachment process and recommended that:
The Committee acknowledge every judicial discipline complaint. The Committee should continue to keep a record of the number and nature of these complaints, and report these data in its summary of activities. In serious cases involving potentially impeachable conduct, the Committee should engage in an inquiry or solicit the assistance of the Justice Department in such an inquiry;
The House should ensure that the Committee has the resources necessary to deal with judicial discipline matters, and the resources and institutional memory necessary to handle impeachment cases as they arise; and
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Committee routinely receive from the Administrative Office all final orders and accompanying memoranda required by the 1980 Act to be publicly available.
[Status: although the Committee has exercised its oversight authority and has maintained the resources necessary to deal with judicial discipline and impeachment matters, it has not systematized its handling of judicial discipline complaints. It also has not routinely received publicly available information from the Administrative Office.]
Again, when circumstances present themselves, given the wide latitude that the Senate has to develop and implement impeachment trial procedures, the Senate should consider experimenting with a variety of delegation approaches (including use of masters) to simplify issues prior to any removal trial. Further, the Senate should consider the establishment of a standard of proof in impeachment trials. Moreover, the Senate should consider amending its Impeachment Rules to permit a Rule XI Committee (trial committee) to make proposed findings of fact and recommendations to the Senate on articles of impeachment involving federal judges. Finally, following conviction of a federal judge in a Senate impeachment trial, the Senate should always decide whether to disqualify the judge from future public office.
[Status: because the Senate has not faced a judicial impeachment since issuance of the Report, it has given little consideration to the Commission's recommendations.]
One recommendation was directed to the Congress. When prosecution and conviction of a federal judge occur first, the facts that were necessarily found in the criminal conviction should be used by Congress so as to make impeachment proceedings or a Senate trial more efficient.
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
[Status: because no judicial impeachments have taken place since issuance of the Report, this recommendation has not been implemented.]
3. The Executive Branch. The Commission concluded that the Department of Justice should promulgate guidelines and procedures for government litigators and U.S. Attorney's offices regarding the circumstances under and the manner in which the mechanisms of the 1980 Act are utilized. Furthermore, the Department of Justice should issue explicit guidelines and procedures for the investigation and prosecution of federal judges, and that these guidelines and procedures require the approval of the Attorney General for full-scale investigations and intrusive investigative techniques.
[Status: based on information and belief, the Department of Justice has not implemented the Commission's recommendations. In any event, the Committee should as part of its oversight inquire of the Department whether it has improved its internal procedures regarding the prosecution of sitting federal judges.]
4. The Judicial Branch. Numerous Commission recommendations were made to the judicial branch. The Illustrative Rules should be revised in certain regards, and then adopted by the circuit councils. Discipline under the 1980 Act should be possible for a judge's delay in decision-making but only in unusual circumstances such as habitual failure to decide matters in a timely fashion. Circuit chief judges and circuit councils should refer non-frivolous criminal allegations to prosecutors or this Committee. The ethics code for federal judges should be amended to expressly prohibit judicial misconduct reflecting or implementing bias on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or ethnic or national origin, including sexual harassment; and such misbehavior should be subject to discipline under the 1980 Act unless it is ''merits-related.'' Each judicial circuit council should appoint a committee (whose membership would include non-judges) to serve as a filter and conduit for serious complaints against federal judges. Orders dismissing complaints against judges should contain more information than they now usually contain. A body of precedents should be developed in the field of judicial discipline. The Judicial Conference and circuit councils should consider adoption of judicial evaluation programs. Finally, the Supreme Court should consider adopting policies and procedures for filing and disposing of complaints against Supreme Court Justices.
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
[Status: a majority of the recommendations directed at the judicial branch have been implemented administratively, but several have not including the appointment of committees before the circuit councils to screen complaints, amendments to the ethics code to prohibit various forms of discrimination or harassment, and a self-reporting rule for judges who have been indicted, arrested, or informed that they are the target of a federal or state criminal investigation.]
5. Legislative recommendations. The National Commission made only a handful of recommendations for legislative action:
Provide that section 201 of Title 18, United States Code, be amended to make clear that it does not authorize the removal of any lifetime-tenured judicial officer. [Status: not enacted.]
Enact a statute to provide that a judge who has been convicted of a felony shall not hear or decide cases unless the appropriate circuit council determines otherwise. [Status: not enacted.]
Provide that, upon conviction of a felony, a federal judge should cease to accrue credit, through age of years of service, towards retirement (under the rule of 80). [Status: Judicial Conference passed a resolution to this effect, but not enacted.]
Amend section 332 of Title 28, United States Code, to require each circuit council to report annually to the Administrative Office the number and nature of orders entered thereunder that relate to judicial misconduct or disability (including delay). [Status: enacted as an amendment to 28 U.S.C. §332(g).]
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Amend section 372 of Title 28, United States Code, to include as an additional ground of dismissal by a chief judge that the allegations in a complaint have been shown to be plainly untrue or incapable of being established through investigation. [Status: implemented administratively as an amendment to the Illustrative Rules.]
Amend the public disclosure requirements under federal law to require a federal judge either (1) to certify that, to the best of his or her knowledge, information and belief, the judge does not, except as permitted by Canon 2(c), hold membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis or race, sex, religion, or national origin, or (2) to list all organizations not exempted by Canon 2(c) of which the judge is a member. [Status: not enacted.]
V. OTHER JUDICIAL DISCIPLINE METHODS AND LAWS
A. Informal Methods of Judicial Discipline. Section 332 permits the circuit councils, through their respective chief judges, to employ informal methods of resolving problems. This authority is traditional, not textual. Informal action ''has been and remains the judiciary's most common response to episodes of judicial misconduct.'' See Geyh, Charles Gardner, Informal Methods of Judicial Discipline, 142 U. Penn. L. Rev. 243, 280 (1993). Professor Geyh, a former counsel to this Committee, also identifies two further devices with disciplinary implications: (1) appeal and mandamus; and (2) peer influence. Appeal and mandamus are relatively weak tools to address judicial misconduct because they are applied on a case-by-case basis and do not appear to be sanctions. Peer pressure may be effective but is largely invisible to the public eye. Nonetheless, an understanding of these informal processes is essential to a fuller understanding of judicial discipline.
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
B. Judicial Disqualification and Recusal. An individual's right to have a case heard before an impartial judge is protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and sections 144 and 455 of title 28, United States Code. These constitutional and statutory provisions enable litigants to request that a judge recuse himself or herself on counts of bias of conflict of interest.
Section 144 authorizes a litigant to disqualify a judge by filing a timely and ''sufficient affidavit that the judge before whom the matter is pending has a personal bias or prejudice either against [the litigant] or in favor of any adverse party.'' In comparison, section 455 provides that a judge must ''disqualify'' himself or herself from any proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned or in any case in which the judge, or members of his or her family, are parties to the case or have a financial interest in a party to the case. Although the standards for a finding of bias or partiality would appear easy to meet, they are not. Recusal appears to be rare, and reversal of a refusal to recuse is even rarer. Inherent in these statutes' requirements that a judge disqualify or recuse if bias or partiality reasonably may be questioned is a fundamental principle that our justice system must satisfy an appearance of justice.
As compared to judicial discipline which is administered by the relevant circuit council and the Judicial Conference, judicial recusal is determined on a case-by-case basis by individual federal judges. An understanding of how well section 144 and section 455 are working requires an analysis of the case law. It is my understanding that the Federal Judicial Center will soon be releasing a descriptive monograph on federal case law interpreting the judicial disqualification statutes. I recommend that the Subcommittee examine this monograph very closely, and if further prescriptive research is necessary, that the Subcommittee request the Center to do so.
Page 92 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
C. Judicial Ethics. Federal judges must satisfy exacting ethical standards regarding personal finances. The Ethics in Government Act of 1978, as amended, requires all judges to file personal financial reports containing a full statement of assets, income, and liabilities as well as those of spouses and dependent children. Pub. L. No. 95521, 92 Stat., 1824, 185161. The reports are to be made available to the public. However, to the best of my knowledge, the judges' financial disclosure forms are extremely difficult to obtain. As regards judicial officers, the Act is administered by the Judicial Conference which has established a Judicial Ethics Committee to assist. In past years, this Subcommittee has conducted continuing oversight of the Judicial Ethics Committee. I am honored to appear on a panel with the Chairman of that Committee.
D. Review of Judicial Education and Training Programs. After the media reported stories after federal judges' attendance at expense-paid educational seminars whose sponsors accept funding from corporate foundations and other entities with a potential interest in the outcome of federal litigation involving topics covered by the seminar, judicial education became a hot topic. A legislative proposal was introduced in the Senate to create an administrative mechanism within the judicial branch to review judicial education and training programs attended by federal judges. See S. 2990 (Kerry/Feingold), 106th Cong., 2nd Sess. (2000), the Judicial Education Reform Act of 2000. Although it contains exceptions, S. 2990 essentially bans privately-funded seminars by prohibiting judges from accepting private seminars as gifts. The legislation also creates a Judicial Education Fund and delegates authority to the Board of the Federal Judicial Center to approve seminars. Information about any seminar must be posted on the Internet, and the Judicial Conference is authorized to promulgate guidelines for the Center's approval process.
Page 93 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In my opinion, such legislation is not sound public policy. If individuals appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate can be entrusted with lifetime tenure and Article III authority, they certainly can be entrusted with the responsibility of choosing educational seminars and programs. ''Judges are continually exposed to competing views and arguments and are trained to weigh them.''(see footnote 12) The proposal implicates (negatively, I believe) academic freedom and First Amendment rights. The education of judges serves the public interest. That a lecture or seminar espouses a particular viewpoint (conservative, liberal, or libertarian) should not preclude a judge from attending.
However, judges should routinely consider the propriety of attending all expense paid seminars, including any appearance of impropriety. Payment of tuition, reimbursement of expenses, and the overall value of the gift that accrues from attendance at privately-funded seminars must be timely and accurately disclosed by judges. Attendance at a seminar funded by an entity with a direct or significant interest in matters before the judge strikes me as improper. Judicial ethics rules require judges, prior to attending any privately-funded seminar, to investigate the sponsors and funding sources for the seminar. Oversight hearings like this one should shine light on judges who fail to do so. The Judicial Conference's Codes of Conduct Committee routinely entertains requests for advice from individual judges and provides guidance on a case-by-case basis. If abuses occur (e.g., a failure to report or an unwillingness to take the Committee's advice), resort should be made to the chief judge of the appropriate circuit pursuant to the 1980 discipline Act.
The federal judiciary has a Federal Judicial Center that is legislatively assigned the role of providing educational programs for judges on a wide variety of subjects. Judicial education by a public institution is particularly important for newly-appointed judges in areas about which they know little. In my opinion, the Center is one of the jewels in the judiciary's crown. To reduce the lure of non-government seminars at resort locations, the Subcommittee may wish to encourage the Appropriations Committee to augment the Center's budget so that more in-house educational programs can be presented.
Page 94 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
E. The Appointments Process. A final word should be said about the appointments process which serves as the first line of defense against the corrupt, incapable, biased or intemperate judge. By requiring presidential nomination with the advice and consent of the Senate for the confirmation of lifetime-tenured judges, the Constitution is rooted in the proposition that only the most qualified and respected members of the legal profession should be appointed as federal judges. There is really no excuse for the appointment of individuals who are likely to engage in judicial misbehavior on the bench.
In conclusion, our system of judicial misconduct and disability appears to be working tolerably well. I commend the Committee for conducting an oversight hearing on the operations of federal judicial misconduct statutes. In determining which path to take based on your oversight, please remember the constitutional counterweight of judicial independence. In difficult times, the judiciary is a rock of stability. Please also remember that judicial independence must accommodate some notion of accountability. An independent judiciary is an impartial judiciary. The Hamiltonian concern for protecting the judiciary from the other two branches provides a strong argument for effective disciplinary procedures, short of impeachment, within the judicial branch. Towards this end, permit me to leave you with the following recommendations:
Committee Oversight. Continue your vigorous oversight of judicial independence and accountability by hearing from representatives of the U.S. Department of Justice and high-ranking judicial officers.
Page 95 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Assess why the Justice Department did not implement the National Commission's recommendations.
Assess why the federal judicial branch did not implement various Commission recommendations, and particularly, why the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts does not make available to the Committee all final orders and accompanying memorandum required by the 1980 Act to be publicly available, and why the judicial branch is so hesitant to make information publicly available about the 1980 Act.
Institutional Resources of the House Committee on the Judiciary. Consider and acknowledge every judicial discipline complaint and keep a record of complaints; maintain the resources necessary to deal with judicial discipline and impeachment matters; and review all final orders required by the 1980 Act to be publicly available.
Legislative Proposal. Draft legislation to provide that, upon conviction of a felony, a federal judicial should cease to accrue credit, through age or years of service, towards retirement, and that a judge who has been convicted of a felony not hear or decide cases unless the appropriate circuit council determines otherwise, and to implement other Commission legislative recommendations.
Public Accountability of Financial Disclosure Forms. Conduct an investigation of the availability to the public of judges' financial disclosure forms, and the accuracy of those forms.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Judicial Recusal. Review the impending Federal Judicial Center descriptive monograph on the functioning of the judicial disqualification and recusal statutes, and, if necessary, receive a special briefing by the Center and ask that further prescriptive research be undertaken.
Systematic Evaluation of the 1980 Act. Request the federal judiciary to update a previous study that was undertaken in June 1992 to assess whether the Act was working as intended and whether sufficient information is available to the public and Congress to permit meaningful oversight.
Fast forward a couple of years as trials are being conducted against terrorists, or appeals are being heard in such cases, and ask yourself whether you want a strong, and independent judiciary that maintains that highest level of ethics and conduct, one that is fearless and incorruptible. I hope that my institutional memory, the Report and research papers of the National Commission, and my testimony will assist your answer to this question as well as your consideration of the other important issues before you.
Mr. Chairman, I am available to answer any questions that you or Members of the Subcommittee might have.
NATIONAL COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL DISCIPLINE AND REMOVAL
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Peter M. Shane, ''Who May Discipline or Remove Federal Judges?''
LEGISLATIVE BRANCH ISSUES
Warren S. Grimes, ''The Role of the United States House of Representatives in Proceedings to Impeach and Remove Federal Judges.''
Michael J. Gerhardt, ''The Senator's Process for Removing Federal Judges.''
EXECUTIVE BRANCH ISSUES
Todd D. Peterson, ''The Role of the Executive Branch in the Discipline and Removal of Federal Judges.''
Page 98 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCIV.
JUDICIAL BRANCH ISSUES
Richard L. Marcus, ''Who Should Regulate Federal Judges, and How?''
Jeffrey L. Barr & Thomas E. Willging (Federal Judicial Center), ''Administration of the Federal Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980.''
Charles S. Geyh, ''Means of Judicial Discipline Other Than Those Prescribed by the Judicial Discipline Statute, 28 U.S.C. Section 372(c).''
Beth Nolan, ''The Role of Judicial Ethics in the Discipline and Removal of Federal Judges.''
Abe Krash, James S. Portnoy, Erica Frohman Plave & Sarah Kahn Saunder, ''Memorandum Concerning the Constitutionality of Canons 2(c), 3(a)(6), 4(a) and 7 of the Code of Judicial Misconduct.''
William Slate, II, ''Surveys of Knowledge and Satisfaction of Federal Judicial Discipline and Removal Mechanisms and Processes.''
Emily Van Tassel, ''The History of Federal Judicial Tenure, 17891979.''
Dan M. McGill, ''Disincentives to Resignation of Disciplined Federal Judges in the Benefits Package of the Federal Judiciary.''
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCErnest Gellhorn, Kathryn M. Fenton, Barbara McDowell & J. Peter Wang, Judicial Discipline and Removal: The Experience of Article I Courts.
RELATED SPECIAL REPORTS
Elizabeth Bazan, ''Disqualification of Federal Judges Convicted of BriberyAn Examination of the Act of April 30, 1790 and Related Issues.''
Jerome Marcus, ''The 1790 Statute and Control of a Judge's Tenure in Office.''
Timothy R. Murphy, ''The Effects of Criminal Prosecution of State Judges on State Judicial Disciplinary Proceedings.''
William Slate, II & Lucy G. White (Justice Research Institute), ''New Paradigms of Judicial Discipline: Application of Foreign Models in the American System.''
Library of Congress, ''Judicial Tenure: Removal and Discipline in Selected Foreign Countries.''
Michael Straight, ''Accountability for Racial, Religious, Ethnic and Gender Bias Misconduct and Sexual Harassment by Federal Judges.''
Page 100 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCNATIONAL COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL DISCIPLINE AND REMOVAL
LIST OF CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
WITH AN IMPLEMENTATION UPDATE*
NOVEMBER 29, 2001
The Commission concludes that Article III judges constitutionally may be prosecuted, convicted, and punished, and that the punishment may lawfully include incarceration.
The Commission concludes that Article III judges constitutionally may be subjected to state prosecution and incarceration. Although Congress has power to create some privileges against such prosecutions, the Commission concludes that such statutory privileges would be unwise.
The Commission concludes that a circuit council constitutionally may use its statutory authority to assign and reassign cases, and otherwise control the judicial duties, of a judge who has become disabled.
The Commission further concludes that a circuit council constitutionally may use its statutory authority to control the assignment and reassignment of cases and other judicial functions of an implicated judge during the criminal process, from investigation and indictment through the expiration of sentence, including a term of probation.
Page 101 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Commission concludes that a statute providing for the removal from office of judges who serve on good behavior under Article III by means other than impeachment and conviction would be unconstitutional.
The Commission recommends that section 201 of title 18, United States Code, be amended to make clear that it does not authorize the removal of any judicial officer who serves during a term specified in the Constitution.
The Commission concludes that a statute under which a judge's compensation would be suspended on the basis of a criminal conviction would be unconstitutional.
The Commission recommends adoption of a statute under which a judge who has been convicted of a felony shall not hear or decide cases unless the circuit council determines otherwise.
The Commission recommends retaining the political mechanism of impeachment by the House and trial by the Senate as now provided in the Constitution. The impeachment process is the sole appropriate means for the removal of life-tenured judges.
The Commission recommends against a constitutional amendment under which convicted judges would be removed automatically.
The Commission recommends against the creation of a new organ of government that would have the authority to discipline and remove federal judges.
Page 102 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCThe Commission opposes the suggestion that Congress should be able to determine by statute the way in which federal judges are removed.
The Commission opposes any proposal under which the Supreme Court would participate in the removal of federal judges.
The Commission concludes that the current constitutional standard for impeachment, as interpreted over the years, has been adequate to its purpose and recommends that it not be amended.
The Commission recommends that the House Committee on the Judiciary continue to acknowledge every judicial discipline complaint. In serious cases involving potentially impeachable conduct, the Committee should conduct a follow-up inquiry or solicit the aid of the Justice Department in such an inquiry. The Committee should continue to keep a record of the number and nature of these complaints, and report these data each Congress.
The Commission recommends that the House ensure that its Committee on the Judiciary has the resources to deal with judicial discipline matters, and the resources and institutional memory necessary to deal with impeachment cases as they arise.
The Commission recommends that the House Committee on the Judiciary and the Justice Departmentupon obtaining information that a federal judge has committed criminal acts that may be inconsistent with continued service on the benchwork cooperatively to resolve the removal issue, including, if desirable, postponing criminal proceedings.
Page 103 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Commission recommends that the executive and judicial branches share with Congress information that might be useful to it when it considers whether to impeach a federal judge, subject to exceptions necessary to the law enforcement function and to protect serious confidentiality interests. Congress should enact legislation, with proper safeguards, to facilitate the exchange of this information in appropriate circumstances.
The Commission recommends that the House avoid repetition of prior fairly conducted proceedings. When impeachment proceedings follow criminal convictions, issue preclusion should be used except in unusual circumstances.
The Commission recommends that the House dispense with the filing of a ''replication'' to a respondent judge's answer.
The Commission recommends that the Senate consider experimenting with a variety of delegation approaches (including use of masters) to handle pretrial issues (especially discovery) prior to any removal trial.
The Commission recommends that the Senate consider amending its rules to permit a Rule XI Committee to transmit to the full Senate each Committee member's individual views regarding proposed findings of fact and recommendations on individual articles of impeachment.
The Commission recommends that the Senate consider adopting rules tailored to impeachment trials in which evidence is heard in a Rule XI Committee.
Page 104 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCThe Commission recommends that the Senate apply issue preclusion to matters necessarily determined against a judge in a prior criminal trial except in unusual circumstances.
The Commission recommends that the Senate compile a manual of impeachment source materials for participants in the proceedings and other interested parties.
The Commission recommends that the House Committee on the Judiciary, within its jurisdiction, exercise periodic oversight of judicial discipline, judicial ethics, and criminal prosecutions of federal judges.
The Commission recommends that the Senate review its confirmation proceedings involving judges prosecuted since 1980 to determine whether those proceedings were thorough and whether they revealed any problems suggesting a danger of misconduct by the nominees. The Senate review should be forward-looking, designed to avoid problems in the future.
The Commission recommends that the House determine, in its resolution, whether to seek both removal and disqualification in each impeachment proceeding.
The Commission recommends that, regardless of whether the House asks for disqualification, the Senate vote on disqualification from holding future office as well as on removal from office of judges convicted in impeachment trials.
The Commission concludes that no formal institutional linkages need be established among or between the branches of government. A permanent National Commission on Judicial Discipline and Removal is not necessary.
Page 105 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Commission recommends informal meetings of high-level representatives of the three branches of the federal government to promote oversight and understanding of judicial discipline, disability, and impeachment.
The Commission recommends that the Administrative Office routinely provide the House Committee on the Judiciary with all final orders and accompanying memoranda required by the 1980 Act to be publicly available.
The Commission recommends that the Justice Department promulgate guidelines and procedures for its attorneys regarding the circumstances under and the manner in which the mechanisms of the 1980 Act are to be utilized.
The Commission recommends that convicted judges who fail to accept responsibility for their conduct not receive reduced sentences, and in any event that sentencing judges be sensitive to the effects of their sentences on the decision of a convicted judge to resign voluntarily from judicial office.
The Commission recommends that the FBI and the Justice Department issue explicit guidelines and procedures for the investigation and prosecution of federal judges, and that these guidelines and procedures require the approval of the Attorney General for full-scale investigations and intrusive investigative techniques.
Page 106 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCThe Commission recommends that the Justice Department consult with the U.S. House of Representatives at appropriate times during an investigation and prosecution of a federal judge, whenever the facts suggest that impeachment is a likely outcome. The timing of impeachment and criminal proceedings should be a matter dictated by the facts and circumstances of each case. Ideally, this decision should be made by mutual agreement of the branches.
The Commission recommends that FBI full-field investigations of judicial candidates be as comprehensive as reasonably possible to ensure sound judgments about their integrity and qualifications.
The Commission recommends that Illustrative Rule 1(e) be revised to provide that the complaint procedure may not be used to force a ruling on a particular motion or other matter that has been before the judge too long; a petition for mandamus can sometimes be used for that purpose. Discipline under the 1980 Act may be appropriate, however, for (1) habitual failure to decide matters in a timely fashion, (2) delay shown to be founded on the judge's improper animus or prejudice against a litigant, or (3) egregious delay constituting a clear dereliction of judicial responsibilities. The Commission also recommends that all councils and the several courts subject to the 1980 Act adopt this Illustrative Rule as revised. [Change made to the commentary of the Illustrative Rule.]
The Commission recommends that a chief judge or circuit council dismissing for lack of jurisdiction non-frivolous allegations of criminal conduct by a federal judge bring those allegations, if serious and credible, to the attention of federal or state criminal authorities and of the House Judiciary Committee. In situations where the chief judge or circuit council believe it inappropriate to act as an intermediary, the Commission recommends that they notify the complainant of the names and addresses of the individuals to whose attention the charges might be brought.
Page 107 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Commission recommends that the 1980 Act be amended to include as an additional ground for dismissal by a chief judge that the allegations in a complaint have been shown to be plainly untrue or incapable of being established through investigation. [Illustrative Rule amended.]
The Commission recommends that the Judicial Conference of the United States add to the text of Canon 2 or Canon 3 of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges an express prohibition of judicial behavior that reflects or implements bias on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or ethnic or national origin, including sexual harassment. Unless the complaint's allegations are directly related to the merits of a decision or procedural ruling, such behavior in a judicial capacity is an appropriate subject for discipline under the 1980 Act.
The Commission recommends that the bar and the federal judiciary increase awareness of and education about the 1980 Act among lawyers, judges, court personnel, and members of the public. As one part of such efforts, each circuit council that has not already done so should publish its rules under the Act in United States Code Annotated, and a reference to the 1980 Act and the circuit council's rules should be included in the local rules of each district court.
The Commission recommends that each circuit council charge a committee or committees, broadly representative of the bar but that may also include informed lay persons, with the responsibility to be available to assist in the presentation to the chief judge of serious complaints against federal judges. Such groups should also work with chief judges in efforts to identify problems that may be amenable to informal resolutions and should initiate programs to educate lawyers and the public about judicial discipline. The Commission also encourages other institutions, including the organized bar, to take an active interest in the smooth functioning and wise administration of formal and informal mechanisms that address problems of judicial misconduct and disability.
Page 108 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Commission endorses Illustrative Rule 4(b) and recommends that the 1980 Act be amended to provide that a chief judge may conduct a limited inquiry into the factual support for a complainant's allegations but may not make findings of fact about any matter that is reasonably in dispute.
The Commission recommends that chief judges seek assistance from qualified staff in reviewing complaints and preparing orders. It encourages chief judges to consult other judges who may be helpful in the process of complaint disposition. The Commission does not believe that the 1980 Act, including its provision on confidentiality, constitutes a barrier to such assistance or consultation.
The Commission recommends that the Illustrative Rules be amended to permit chief judges and judicial councils to invoke a rule of necessity authorizing them to continue to act on multiple judge complaints that otherwise would require multiple disqualifications.
The Commission recommends that all judicial councils adopt and strictly adhere to Illustrative Rule 17 as it relates to the public availability of a chief judge's orders dismissing complaints or concluding proceedings and any accompanying memoranda. Care should be taken to eliminate information that would identify the judge or magistrate. If action by the judicial councils or the Judicial Conference does not result in national uniformity on the issue within a reasonable period of time, the Commission recommends that the 1980 Act be amended to impose it.
The Commission recommends that council rules regarding confidentiality should be nationally uniform. The relevant provisions of the Illustrative Rules should be adopted to that end, but the uniform rules should not provide for automatic transmittal of a copy of complaints to the chief judge of the district court and the chief judge of the bankruptcy court. They should, however, authorize a chief judge to release information, with appropriate safeguards, to government entities or properly accredited individuals engaged in the study or evaluation of experience under the 1980 Act. [Adopted by some circuits; not all.] If action by the judicial councils or the Judicial Conference does not result in national uniformity on the issue within a reasonable period of time, the Commission recommends that the 1980 Act be amended to impose it.
Page 109 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Commission recommends that, as provided in Illustrative Rule 4(f), a chief judge who dismisses a complaint or concludes a proceeding should ''prepare a supporting memorandum that sets forth the allegations of the complaint and the reasons for the disposition.'' This memorandum should ''not include the name of the complainant or of the judge or magistrate whose conduct was complained of.'' In the case of an order concluding a proceeding on the basis of corrective action taken, the supporting memorandum's statement of reasons should specifically describe, with due regard to confidentiality and the effectiveness of the corrective action, both the conduct that was corrected and the means of correcting it. If action by the judicial councils or Judicial Conference does not result in national uniformity on the issue within a reasonable period of time, the Commission recommends that the 1980 Act be amended to impose it.
The Commission recommends that the Judicial Conference devise and monitor a system for the dissemination of information about complaint dispositions to judges and others, with the goals of developing a body of interpretive precedents and enhancing judicial and public education about judicial discipline and judicial ethics.
The Commission recommends that the Judicial Conference, assisted by the Administrative Office, reevaluate the adequacy of all data and reports gathered and issued concerning experience under the 1980 Act, including the system used to provide such data and reports in each circuit. The Commission also recommends that, as part of such general reevaluation, consideration be given to gathering and reporting data on complaints about bias on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or ethnic or national origin, including sexual harassment.
The Commission recommends that section 332 of Title 28, United States Code, be amended to require each circuit council to report annually to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts the number and nature of orders entered thereunder that relate to judicial misconduct or disability (including delay).
Page 110 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Commission recommends that the Judicial Conference adopt a uniform policy on the limitations a judicial council should impose on a judge who is personally implicated in the criminal process. At a minimum that policy should include ordinarily relieving a judge under indictment from all judicial responsibilities through to the end of the criminal process and imposing appropriate constraints on judicial responsibility where a judge is under investigation.
The Commission recommends that Congress consider enacting a statute providing that, upon conviction of a felony (or more specifically defined crimes), a federal judge shall cease to accrue credit, through age or years of service, toward retirement under the Rule of 80. [Judicial Conference passed a resolution to this effect.]
The Commission recommends that the Judicial Conference and the circuit councils consider programs of judicial evaluation for adoption in the federal courts.
The Commission recommends that the Judicial Conference reexamine the practice of specifically notifying a federal judge when a request for access to the judge's financial disclosure forms is made, to determine if valid security or other concerns justify continuation of the practice. [Judicial Conference reexamined the practice but expressly rejected any change.]
The Commission recommends that the public disclosure requirements under federal law be amended to require a federal judge either (1) to certify that, to the best of his or her knowledge, information and belief, the judge does not, except as permitted by Canon 2(c), hold membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin or (2) to list all organizations not exempted under Canon 2(c) of which the judge is a member.
Page 111 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Commission recommends that the Judicial Conference adopt a mandatory self-reporting rule that requires federal judges to inform designated authorities (e.g., the circuit chief judge), on a confidential basis, whenever they have been indicted, arrested, or informed that they are the target of a federal or state criminal investigation. Such a rule should not apply to minor offenses. [Judicial Conference only urged each council to adopt a mandatory self-reporting rule.]
The Commission recommends that the Supreme Court may wish to consider the adoption of policies and procedures for the filing and disposition of complaints alleging misconduct against Justices of the Supreme Court.
The Commission recommends that each circuit that has not already done so conduct a study (or studies) of judicial misconduct involving bias based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or ethnic or national origin, including sexual harassment, and of the extent to which the 1980 Act and other existing mechanisms and programs, including judicial education, are adequate to deal with it. The Judicial Conference should monitor the implementation of this recommendation and when such studies have been completed, consideration should be given both locally and nationally within the judiciary to such changes in policies, procedures, and programs as are warranted.
* Italic signifies a conclusion or recommendation that does not require implementation. Bold signifies a conclusion or recommendation that has been implemented.
Mr. COBLE. Your Honor, it is good to have you here. Judge Osteen, you are recognized as the final witness on this panel.
Page 112 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE WILLIAM L. OSTEEN, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
Judge OSTEEN. Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, Mr. Kendall, Mr. Remington and Professor Hellman, I want to thank you for the opportunity to be here today.
Mr. Chairman, one correction that I would like to make your introduction. As I recall, 30 years ago when we worked together, we worked together and not for each other. I was not your boss. But I remember us working together well, and I shall remember those days with a great deal of pleasure. Thank you for your contribution.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you. But you were still my boss.
Judge OSTEEN. Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I would like to rest on the testimony that I have submitted to you. I am confident that Members of the Committee will read what I had to say, and I tried to draft it with care to present the points that I was trying to make.
In summary, my field generally deals with two of the things that have been discussed here and may be on your agenda. One is the recusal statute of 28 U.S.C. 455, which is the embodiment of the canon of ethics 3C(1), including C subdivision.
Page 113 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I want to say, Mr. Chairman, a couple of things about the attendance at seminars. I have been there. I have attended the FREE seminarthat is capital F-R-E-E. I have attended the George Mason seminarsthree of them. And I want to say, Mr. Chairman, that in my opinion, an effort to stifle the free flow of human discourse would be a serious matter. Judges, I believe, try to do what they can properly and with ethical considerations at all times; and I believe in this day, when we have substantial new legislation coming in, substantially new ideas on various aspects of each piece of that legislation, that a judge simply cannot keep up with some things without the help of the Federal Judicial Center and the independent help that it receives from other sources.
But, particularly, I want to talk about the kind of help that has come from the seminars that I have attended. It is not telling judges how to judgenot at all. It is telling judges, here are some alternative things that you may think about, which may include an opportunity to exercise your mind. And I think one of the most essential things that we can require of judges today is that we do try to exercise our minds and not close ourselves in.
So, Mr. Chairman, with what I have said in the testimony that has been previously submitted, I do want to say that I believe that an opportunity for judges to obtain information, even not in the field of judicial concern, but in other fieldsin music, in philosophy and all of the other courses that might be availableit is helpful to judges to have access to that kind of information.
I do believe that Advisory Opinion 67 is viable and active. There seems to be some slight indication here that this is all something new and has suddenly been discovered in the last year or two, that judges are attending some seminars. There is nothing new about this, Mr. Chairman. It has been going on, to my knowledge, for 30 years and there is nothing secret about it. It is open. Turn to Web sites and you will find exactly what is on the menu of these various programs.
Page 114 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Now, I realize I am constrained by time limitations, so I want to turn just a moment to the question of recusal because of stock ownership. I submit, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, that the judiciary has not done a perfect job, because I don't believe that I will ever see the time that perfection is obtained in any field. But we strive for it, and that is what we look for.
So is this question that is raised legitimate from the standpoint of consequence or size or volume? I say no, Mr. Chairman. I say, there have been mistakes made; but I also say, if you take every challenge that has been raisedwhich I do notto the failure to recuse, you will find that there have been less than 100 over the last 3 years.
A review of how many cases are handled by judges in the last 3 years, taking a 2-year average, would be 560,000 cases. That means of the ones that had been found by judges themselves, by a committee or by individuals, that means that .00017 percent had some allegation of wrongdoing about them. To put that in another form, that is 17 ten-thousandths of a percent in which there is an allegation that something might be wrong.
Maybe we will get an opportunity to answer questions, which I will be happy to do on either of those two topics or anything else that may be posed to me. But I thank you for the opportunity to be here.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you, Your Honor.
[The prepared statement of Judge Osteen follows:]
Page 115 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
PREPARED STATEMENT OF WILLIAM L. OSTEEN
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I thank you for the opportunity to address the subject of seminars for judges and the subject of judicial recusal, as the latter is addressed in 28 United States Code §455 and Canon 3C(1)(c) of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges.
I. PRIVATELY FUNDED SEMINARS
I would expect that the members of your Committee would have little idea of who I am, so please allow me to introduce myself as it may be material to the matters for your consideration. From my childhood through college, my father served as a probation officer in the federal courts. In that atmosphere, I learned a great respect for the federal judiciary. During law school, my admiration for the integrity of the court increased with each opportunity I had to visit the federal district court. Judge Johnson J. Hayes of the Middle District of North Carolina was my first hero. Throughout 30 years of private practice of law, my specialization was almost exclusively in federal court litigation, both civil and criminal. My private practice was interrupted by the five years I served as United States Attorney. Ten years ago, I was appointed to the federal bench. I have for six years been a member of the Judicial Conference's Committee on Codes of Conduct. I presently serve as its chairman. I do not consider myself an expert in the field of ethics for federal judges, but I am an avid student of the subject. The only experts of my acquaintance are Judge Raymond Randolph of the D.C. Circuit and Judge Carol Amon of the Eastern District of New York, both former Chairs of this Committee, along with two current members of the Committee.
Page 116 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The significance of this historical reflection prompts me to state, perhaps immodestly, but very proudly, that few people here today have longer admired, both personally and professionally, the integrity and independence of federal courts. I believe my enthusiasm for the third branch of government is shared by all of my judicial colleagues.
In the interest of full relevant disclosure, I have attended the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE) seminar in Bozeman, Montananot at a dude ranch, as some may suspect, but at an accommodation with a nice restaurant, a reasonably good meeting room, and sleeping accommodations in surrounding cabins. It was an interesting seminar concentrating mostly on past, present, and anticipated future attempts to save Yellowstone National Park. I have also attended three George Mason School of Law, Law and Economics Center seminars. The first was a basic introduction to Economics and Statistics. As a college graduate in Economics, I was able to follow a good deal of the lecture material. The second seminar involved microeconomics and other advanced theories of economics. I struggled substantially to keep up with new theories and application of economics. Finally, the last was a seminar entitled ''Individual Responsibility and Culture,'' in which among others, the writings of St. Augustine, Burke, Rousseau, and Nietzsche were examinedan absolutely fascinating presentation.
All of the LEC seminars were intellectually taxing, requiring much advanced preparation with reading before and after arrival at a nice Tucson, Arizona, hotel. There was some time for relaxation, but I chose sightseeing and I played golfall at my own expense.
Page 117 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
As easy as it would be, it is not my purpose or responsibility to proclaim the preeminence of the George Mason LEC in its field, but make no mistake, I believe the LEC selects lecturers with impeccable credentials and does an excellent job of helping judges exercise and improve the use of their intellect and judgment. I could not discern from the lectures and association with the LEC leadership whether it espouses a liberal or conservative philosophy. The programs were highly academic and not political. Some of the lecturers were Nobel laureatesMilton Friedman and Paul Samuelson. Others were nationally acclaimed academics in their chosen fieldsFrancis Fukuyama of George Mason; George Priest, Yale Law School; Gordon Wood of Brown; Jean B. Elshtain, University of Chicago Divinity School; and two of my personal favorites, Orley Ashenfelder of Princeton and Charles Goetz, University of Virginia Law Schoolnone of whom shared their political philosophies. All lecturers were highly competent in their chosen fields of endeavor. None would have sullied their own reputations by attempting to instruct judges on how to judge. They exposed our minds to reason and alternative fields of academia. The audience of judges included a few individuals appointed by Presidents Carter and Reagan and a pretty even number of individuals appointed by Presidents Bush and Clinton.
ATTRIBUTES OF JUDGES
In order to address the appropriateness of privately-funded seminars, we should first consider what we expect judges to be. Contrary to the urging of some, I do not believe judges should separate themselves from human discourse. Of course, the public has an absolute right to expect that judges will maintain the integrity and independence of the third branch. Judges should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities. Judges should perform their duties impartially and diligently. All of this is in keeping with the Code of Conduct for United States Judges and the later-enacted statutory version 28 U.S.C. §455. The standard has been prepared for and set by judges themselves. No other group has prepared its own code of conduct subject to such exemplary or strict requirements. All of this is part of, but not the full measure for, defining excellence in the Judiciary.
Page 118 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I submit that a good judge is one whose mind remains active and alert. It would be inappropriate to require tunnel vision of judges, for you would soon find that the judges had closed out the ability to evaluate factual and legal concepts. I know that the Chairman of your Committee had an active trial practice before becoming our Congressman and perhaps others of you have experienced trial practice. You may draw your own conclusions, but as for me, I preferred to appear before a judge who had an active, inquiring, and challenging mind, one who could decipher complicated issues of technology and change, and understood the precedential value of legal history, along with the common sense to appreciate the value of everyday life. I submit that a judge can best fulfill the obligation of this responsibility by maintaining an active, personal interest in mind-improving experiences, such as music, art, baseball, religious study, principles of economics, political history, and the list goes on and on. Judge Learned Hand captured the point poignantly when he said,
I venture to believe that it is as important to a judge called upon to pass on a question of constitutional law, to have at least a bowing acquaintance with Acton and Maitland, with Thucydides, Gibbon and Carlyle, with Homer, Dante, Shakespeare and Milton, with Machiavelli, Montaigne and Rubelais, with Plato, Bacon, Hume and Kant, as with the books which have been specifically written on the subject. For in such matters everything turns upon the spirit in which he approaches the questions before him.
Listening to Nobel laureates Paul Samuelson and Milton Freedman, or such outstanding notables in their fields, I have already named, is part of continuing education for judges much to be desired. These are the types of presentations for which an institution should receive commendationnot condemnation.
Page 119 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
CRITICISM OF SEMINARS
I read with interest, though much disagreement, the submission to this Subcommittee by Mr. Kendall of the Community Rights Counsel. First, let me address a few small matters perhaps included in his comments to arouse suspicion. His paper refers to the LEC and FREE seminars as junkets to exotic, posh places. That is obviously an attempt to arouse your emotional animosity. Interestingly, and quite properly, no one voices an objection to the Federal Judicial Center's seminar locations as either junkets or exotic. Now, I ask you which are more exoticMiami, San Diego, Portland, Philadelphia, Cold Springs Harborsponsored by the FJC or Tucson and Bozeman, privately sponsored? None were posh. Frankly, I liked them all, except one. None of them appeared to be ''exotic''I found all of the places to be appropriate. While I have no personal knowledge, I am reliably informed that seminars can be held in such locations at considerably less expense than in Washington or New York. I should note in passing that the FJC does an excellent job of seminar planning for both location and content. My comparison here in no way impugns the quality or the frugality of its presentations.
Second, Mr. Kendall would have you believe that concern about these seminars is of recent origin when he says, ''three years ago when word of these trips first came to light. . . .'' An even cursory review of the public record establishes that since the early 1970's the Aspen Institute, the University of Miami's LEC, the Danforth Foundation, New York University, Center for Advanced Studies at Stanford, the Einstein Institute, various Ford Foundation funded enterprises, and others too numerous to mention, have been inviting judges to seminars. Law schools have offered free opportunities for judge participation in seminars for many years before that. In 1978, the Advisory Committee on Judicial Activities (predecessor to the Committee on Codes of Conduct) advised that judges could accept those invitations. News articles in 197980, including The Legal Times, Fortune, and The Washington Post, publicly discussed private seminars for federal judges. So, to claim that this is a new exposure simply, at best, overlooks the obvious. I believe that the George Mason LEC program has been in existence for 25 years. It is listed on a website where a review of its courses and subjects are available to anyone upon inquiry.
Page 120 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
There is, however, a more serious allegation by the CRC which results from an incorrect understanding of Advisory Opinion 67. To set the stage, Mr. Kendall quoted my telling ''20/20,'' ''I have no idea where [LEC] gets its money.'' This is obviously intended to prove that I have a callous disregard for an ethical obligation. Mr. Kendall did not consult me about this quote, and he was not obligated to, but if he had, he would have found that I advised ''20/20'' that it was unnecessary to check on the source of funding to George Mason because, under the circumstances, Advisory Opinion 67 does not require it. It requires that I determine the detail of funding if the source is involved in litigation or likely to be involved and the topics covered in the seminar are likely to be in some manner related to the subject matter of litigation pending or impending before me. Of course, the explanation never made it through the cutting room at ''20/20.'' The linchpin of CRC's major complaint is thus misplaced. It is my understanding that corporations contribute no more than a token portion toward seminar expenses. In fact, support for George Mason LEC's seminars comes mostly from other than corporations. In 2001, corporate support accounted for 13% of LEC's revenues. The average corporate donation was 0.7% of revenue.
Certainly, judges must be mindful that if a seminar is sponsored by actual or potential litigants in a judge's court and the topics covered are likely to be related to the subject matter of the litigation, then a judge should not attend. That would be in conflict with the rules of conduct and I think we would all agree that it would be inappropriate. Advisory Opinion 67 is quite clear in reaching that decision.
Other criticisms on this subject appear to rest on faulty assumptions. For example, there is the assumption that the seminars are designed by corporations in litigation before the attending judges. Yet, I have seen no evidence to support that assumption. On the contrary, the seminars in question were offered by a private foundation (FREE) or a law school (George Mason). Each was responsible for the design and content of the program. Not only did the seminar planners inform us of this fact, but it is borne out by the fact that each seminar asks judges to rate the faculty and make suggestions for change. George Mason University is on record that its judicial seminars are funded completely by the Law and Economics Center and it has established a Judicial Advisory Board consisting of distinguished jurists from throughout the nation whose responsibilities are to suggest and help select appropriate subjects and places for its seminars.
Page 121 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Second, there is an assumption that judges who attend these seminars are improperly influenced by corporate interests. The supporting evidence for that assumption is also missing. Besides, Advisory Opinion 67 counsels: ''Judges are continually exposed to competing views and arguments and are trained to weigh them.'' Let me suggest that in this modern day of proliferating litigation, some caused by Congressional enactment, some by increased population, and some by the nimble minds of a litigious society, seminars are a necessity. Judges need exposure to ideas and concepts. This would be true even if some presentations are not balanced in content. Judges are constantly faced with unbalanced presentations in the course of litigation and early on recognize that the law contains more ponderables than absolutes. The fact that some presentations are not balanced should not prevent exposure to new and innovative and sound reasoning.
THE ADVICE IN ADVISORY OPINION 67 IS VALID
There is substantial proof that Advisory Opinion 67 is well reasoned and appropriate. For 21 years that opinion has been in place and there is no evidence that judges are making improper decisions after attending a privately funded seminar. How am I able to assert that? The same way we evaluate all other decisionsby looking at the appellate process. The appeals or lack of appealswhich are just as tellingreveal that judges are not being improperly plied with propaganda. That record speaks volumes.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Aguinda v. Texaco, 241 F.3d 194 (2nd Cir. 2000), met head on this same issue which CRC raises today. Judge Winter writing for the unanimous court reviewed Advisory Opinion 67 and the statutory counterpart, 28 United States Code §455(a) and concluded that there was no actual or perceived impropriety in the trial judge's private seminar attendance. The standard used in arriving at that decision was the perception in the eyes of a reasonable person.
Page 122 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has spoken eloquently in support of the continuing opportunity for federal judges, and I quote, ''Seminars organized by law schools, bar associations and other private organizations are a valuable and necessary source of education in addition to that provided by the Federal Judicial Center.''
Most emphatically, the Federal Judges Association, on September 18, 2000, voiced its support for privately funded seminars and its objection to an impingement upon legitimate First Amendment rights. But, for a moment, let's examine that. Suppose you do have a right to limit my access to private seminars which invite me without cost. Could you prevent my attendance if I pay for it? I think not. Then what have you accomplished? Is the objection because it is free or because of its content? And further, if you could limit my access to free or paid for educationwhat then? I will have the option of the Internet. I can also pay for my own volumes which may be more unbalanced. With all due respect, the Congress should abstain from any attempt to limit the access of judges to knowledge and information. The Judiciary itself has exercised the responsibility and it possesses the capability to continue to set its own code of conduct for learning opportunities.
Significantly, the organization of attorneys specializing in federal practice, The Federal Bar Association, 15,000 members strong, supports the continuing opportunity of education at private seminars for federal judges.
Finally, the United States Judicial Conference has continually reexamined the educational opportunities for judges over the last 20 years and concluded that our present opportunities are appropriate. The Judicial Conference has made no recommendations for change.
Page 123 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
PROBLEMS WITH LEGISLATION
It imposes a serious threat to the separation of the branches of government for one branch of the government to impose its will on the other by limiting access to knowledge.
As much as I respect the Federal Judicial Center, I do not choose that group or any other as the censor of my right to increase my knowledge. Neither do I want any group to determine for me when I have had a balanced meal or a balanced input of knowledge.
The Federal Judicial Center, with its excellent organization, has neither the necessary funding nor the manpower capability to set and provide appropriate parameters and programs for my access to knowledge.
Legislation which closes a circle around judges necessarily closes out important and helpful local and state and national bar associations, law schools, and generally all institutions of higher education. It would probably prohibit our association with other government entities. It could, for example, prohibit my attendance at a church retreat focusing on the relationship of church and state, or other meaningful community subjects.
The Judiciary has set imposing and adequate standards for judicial education which have been successful over a long period of time. Courts have affirmed the opportunity for judges to acquire knowledge. Lawyers with federal trial experience have endorsed the educational opportunity programs.
Page 124 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The wheel is not broken, it is not bent, and is operating efficiently. Relevant evidence reflects that Congressional intervention is not required and such attempt could have extremely damaging and unjustified ramifications.
II. RECUSAL UNDER 28 U.S.C. §455
CODE OF CONDUCT FOR UNITED STATES JUDGES, CANON 3(C)(1)
Canon 1 of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges states that judges should uphold the integrity and independence of the Judiciary. Canon 3C(1)(c) requires a judge to recuse or not participate in litigation in which the judge or the judge's spouse or minor child residing in the judge's household owns stock. All other canons are aspirationalonly 3(C)(1) is mandatory. Congress has enacted 28 United States Code §455, which is a mirror image of Canon 3C(1)(a)-(e). It is absolutely clear that judges cannot preside over litigation in which the judge or his wife own stock in the litigant. This is an appropriate, understandable requirement and is not subject to debate. We, as judges, should strive for and the public has a right to expect compliance with that mandate.
HISTORY OF RECUSAL
Page 125 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The standards for recusal of federal judges are set forth in 28 U.S.C. §455 and the corresponding Code of Conduct for United States Judges, Canon 3C(1). These provisions, which date from the 1970's, have historical antecedents stretching back centuries, even millennia. Principles of judicial fairness are reflected in ancient Talmudic writings. Early Jewish and Roman civil codes also provided for disqualification of judges due to personal relationships or bias. In our more recent legal tradition, the British common law allowed for disqualification of judges due to financial interest.
The earliest statutory provision in this country dates from 1792, when Congress provided for disqualification of judges who had an interest in a matter or had previously acted as counsel in a cause. Similar fundamental values are embodied in the Constitution's due process clause. Trial by an impartial judge is considered an essential element of due process in judicial proceedings.
Over the past two centuries, Congress has expanded the statutory recusal standards to address a number of specific situations. For example, under 28 U.S.C. §455, judges are disqualified from handling matters if they previously served as an attorney in the matter, or if a close relative is involved as a witness or party, or if they know they have a financial interest in one of the litigants. In each of these situations, reasonable questions about a judge's impartiality are simply presumed, irrespective of the particular facts and circumstances. These situations fall within the specific recusal standards of the statute.
Judges may also be disqualified under §455's general recusal standard. That standard provides for disqualification in any proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned. Under this standard, disqualification is not assessed from the perspective of the litigants or the attorneys or even the news media. Rather, it is assessed from the point of view of a reasonable person informed of the relevant circumstances that a reasonable inquiry would disclose.
Page 126 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
These general and specific standards have been incorporated in §455 for several decades. I believe the statute sets forth appropriate standards of conduct and has operated effectively. This is due in large part to the approach Congress adopted. That is, the statute provides for automatic disqualification only in circumstances where there is general consensus about likely partiality or where (as in the case of disqualification due to financial interest) there is some advantage to a bright line rule. Further, the statute does not attempt to anticipate every possible disqualifying scenario that might arise but instead addresses a limited number of predictable situations that commonly occur. The general disqualification standard serves as an overall check on judicial conduct falling outside of the specific, listed scenarios.
As a practical matter, the federal disqualification statute relies on individual judges to make individual assessments about their ability to handle a matter fairly and impartially. Fact-specific determinations are an essential part of this process. While individual judges are responsible in the first instance for deciding whether to recuse or not, their determinations are ultimately subject to appellate review. Indeed, federal appeals courts have not hesitated to review district judges' recusal determinations when they have been challenged by way of mandamus or appeal. Just this year, courts of appeals in Washington, D.C., and in Boston ordered district judges to recuse because of concerns that their comments to the press gave rise to reasonable questions about their impartiality: United States v. Microsoft Corp., 253 F.3d 34 (D.C. Cir. June 28, 2001), and In re: Boston's Children First, 244 F.3d 164 (1st Cir. March 2, 2001).
Page 127 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In 1998, a reporter for the Kansas City Star, Joe Stephens, brought to our attention that in some 57 cases judges had issued one or more orders while the judge or the judge's spouse owned stock in a litigant. Since then, CRC, which requested and was given access to judges' financial filings, claims to have found 17 more cases in which judges or spouses owned a disqualifying interest. Based on these two facts, CRC blatantly concludes and I quote, ''judge [sic] are honoring in the breach the golden rule against ruling in cases in which they have a disqualifying financial conflict of interest.'' That conclusion, which presumes that the Judiciary is intentionally violating ethical standards, is absolutely incorrect. Please let me explain.
First, in the interest of fairness, I must state that CRC's research is incomplete. In addition to the previously mentioned cases, in Minneapolis, it was alleged that judges had issued orders in four cases, while possessing a disqualifying stock interest. In New York, it was contended that approximately 14 cases had been improperly handled. At least four other cases have been reported throughout the country. That is a total of 96 cases rather than CRC's alleged 74 matters.
Second, there are important matters that CRC has conveniently left unsaid, such as:
in a large number of cases, the judges had ruled on non-substantive matterssuch as setting schedules for pretrial discovery or granting extensions of time within which to file pleadings;
in some cases, spouses had purchased stock without the judge's knowledge;
Page 128 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC some litigants had purchased entities or had been purchased without the judge's knowledge;
in a few of the cases, the allegations of wrongdoing were incorrect for having been erroneously based upon the yearly financial disclosures rather than current recusal lists.
even critics concede they have no evidence that judges profited individually or skewed their decisions because of their stock holdings;
and, yes, in some cases, the presiding judge had, for whatever reason, failed to recuse.
In not a single one of the reported 96 cases has there been a reversal on substantive grounds. There have been no appellate decisions reversing the trial judges for reaching the wrong substantive decision. I am not offering these mitigating factors as an excuse or justification for imperfection, but they conclusively reveal no intended harm or resulting harm.
But let us for a moment consider the size of the problem by adding the 74 cases cited by CRC and the additional 22 cases, for a total of 96. These cases represent all allegations found over a three and one-half year period. In 1999, an average year, there were 264,000 new civil cases filed in federal court. Using the two-year average life expectancy of federal litigation, that means during 1999 and 2000, there were approximately 528,000 active cases within various federal jurisdictions. Assuming that in each of the 96 cases there was improper judicial participation, it follows that in 0.00017% of all cases in the federal system, there is evidence that a judge may have signed an order or presided when the judge should have recused. That's not perfection, but it is mighty close. It refutes CRC's contention of honor in the breach.
Page 129 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Now, since the original Kansas City Star article, a number of entities and individuals, including Joe Stephens and CRC, have filed requests for my annual financial disclosures. I have more than a hunch that financial disclosures for all federal judges have been meticulously reviewed. Since 1998, the number of Canon 3(C)(1) and §455 allegations has continually decreased. This is not by accident. I, for one, want to credit Joe Stephens for doing an outstanding reporting service. He has made judges acutely aware of the consequence of failure to demand perfection in our recusal responsibilities. But other things have happened to improve our system. We now have computer-assisted automated conflicts screening. Federal rules have been amended to require disclosure of corporate parents for litigation. Model checklists have been developed to assist judges in preparing recusal lists. (See attached exhibit.) The Judicial Conference has been much involved in assisting judges with their obligation.
Also, I am extremely proud of our Codes of Conduct Committee. Before 1998, we were fulfilling our assigned responsibilities by advising judges upon their inquiries. We were not and are not an enforcement or investigative agency. However, because we recognized a need, members of our Committee have made themselves available to all bankruptcy, magistrate, and district judges' conferences to discuss this important matter of recusal. We have offered to speak to all circuit and national conferences of judges. With the help and support of the Federal Judicial Center, we have received invitations to speak at recent conferences of judges. (See attached list of our Committee's participation and training seminars.)
It has been argued that obtaining a judge's annual financial disclosure report presents great difficulty, apparently for the reason that judges are notified when a request is made. I disagree that such notification causes the requester great difficulty, but for the moment let us suppose that it does. What's wrong with notification? The financial statements contain a great deal more information than would be helpful to a litigant. To some extent, the difficulty prevents ''judge shopping.'' It enables those responsible for security to be alert to matters which may cause danger to judges. The public knowledge of a judge's financial condition has in some instances enabled the unscrupulous to frivolously and improperly levy upon and harass a judge's financial holdings. Especially in these times when heightened security measures are required, great care should be used in determining whether and the extent to which financial information should be made public.
Page 130 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Since the financial reports are yearly documents, they cannot be relied upon for recusal concerns. Judges like other citizens may and should restructure and compose their financial holdings much more often than a yearly statement would reflect. Thus, an up-to-date recusal list is more valuable than the financial statement for litigants.
For the same reason I support limited access to financial statements, I oppose the requirements of publicly filed recusal statements. There are many unique and quite different potential problems of security, harassment, judge shopping, and other distractions throughout the nation. What works in Greensboro, North Carolina, may be completely ineffective in Detroit or Denver, or New York. Let me give you an exampleI still list my home telephone and address in the telephone directory. Although our U.S. Marshal protests my listing, it has caused me no difficulty. Public listing in some places throughout this country would border on stupidity or at least bad judgment. The same is true of public disclosure of recusal lists. Judges must be allowed to make their separate and necessary assessments based upon familiarity and uniqueness of their potential difficulties.
While I do not post my recusal list publicly, it is maintained in the Office of the Clerk. Upon inquiry of the Clerk, an individual may view that list, and I am not notified. So far, that has worked for me, and I will continue it until necessity requires a change. But I reiterate, what works for one may be legitimately unacceptable for another. Judges should have the right to make their own decisions on publishing or not publishing. I submit that the Judicial Conference is in the best position to determine the need for and the timing of rules concerning publication.
Page 131 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCCONCLUSION
There is no evidence that failure to recuse for stock ownership is a pervasive matter. It is, however, important. The record of the Judicial Conference, the Federal Judicial Center, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, individual judges, and the Committee on Codes of Conduct quite clearly indicates that the problem has been and will continue to be addressed. The record shows substantial reduction in the amount of errors occurring, and we will enthusiastically continue to strive for perfection. That goal will be best addressed by the Judiciary itself.
I want to emphasize that I am not requesting legislative amendment to the statute, and the Judicial Conference has no pending recommendations on this subject. I believe this reflects the consensus view within the Judiciary that the recusal statute is functioning properly and no reform is needed.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman, and the Members of your Subcommittee.
Page 132 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCOsteen1E.eps
Mr. COBLE. And thanks to each of you.
As you just said, Judge, there is no entity or group of people known to me that scores perfectly. We have rotten Members of Congress. Most of us, I think, are pretty good people. I am sure most of the judges are.
This CommitteeHoward, you will rememberI don't thinkthe two bills that are involvedwe had to impeach judges. Not a pleasant undertaking at all. But on balance, I think the Federal judiciary is well represented.
Gentlemen, if you all concur, and Lady, we may have two rounds here, if time permits, because I think this is an issue that needs to be thoroughly examined. Let me put this question to each of the four, if I may, and ask you to offer a very general opinion as to the ethical state of our Federal judiciary.
First, do you believe that the great majority of Federal judges discharge their constitutional responsibility in an appropriate mannerA? B, do you believe that the existing statutory and canonical mechanisms, especially the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act, the recusal statutes and the code of conduct, work well and ultimately help to bolster public confidence in the Federal judiciary?
Mr. Kendall, let me start with you.
Page 133 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. KENDALL. My answer to the first question is absolutely. I think the judicial branch, as a general matter, is the envy of the world. And, general matter, judges are exercising their constitutional authority both appropriately and excellently.
Regarding the second question, I don't think the misconduct and recusal statutes are doing a good enough job about policing legal and technical, or legal and ethical, obligations that do not rise anywhere near to the standards which would require impeachment. I don't think there are effective enough penalties now in place to police, for example, nondisclosure of information on disclosure forms, nondisclosure of a trip or stock conflicts, a contrast.
For example, what would happen if a Department of Justice attorney was found to have stock in a company that he was prosecuting? As I understand it, that attorney would be looking for a new job. And on the way out the door, he might be saying something about how his wife had obtained the stock or that it was a minor amount of interest, and he would be telling that to his next employer.
Now, contrast that to what happens in the stock-conflict category with judges. And I am not aware of any disciplinary action of any form taken against any of the judges that have been identified as having stock conflicts, for example, in the Kansas City Star story; maybe there are some in the Kansas City Star story identifying stock conflicts. So I don't think the judicial misconduct statutes are effectively policing what some would say are minor unethical legal transgressions by judges.
Mr. REMINGTON. As to the first question, I would say yes. As to the second, I used the phrase ''reasonably well.'' I think the statutes are working reasonably well. There have been a great deal of improvements through congressional oversight since 1980.
Page 134 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Bear in mind that the Commission itself was created to study the operation of this statute and concluded that the judicial discipline and misconduct statute was working reasonably well. But I also agree that improvements could be made. I particularly agree with Professor Hellman's statement that not enough is known or understood about this statutory scheme.
Mr. COBLE. Professor?
Mr. HELLMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Yes, I agree with Mr. Remington's comments and the first part of Mr. Kendall's. The Federal judiciary is composed of people who are overwhelmingly ethical in their behavior and in their instincts. And it might be useful to just say one or two words about why that comes about.
I think part of the reason is what I mentioned in my initial comments, the appointment process. People who are ethically challenged don't get through that process. It is a very, very demanding kind of scrutiny.
Second, there is an elaborate structure for reinforcing ethical norms, and it works within Judge Osteen's committee and works within the circuits, it works within the districts and it works at every level of the judiciary.
Page 135 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The third thing I would like to mention, because it perhaps is not as self-evident as the others: the judiciary has an excellent staff; and I think if we had a chance to talk a little bit more about the informal processes, we shouldn't understate or overlook the result of staff. Sometimes lawyers would not be willing to talk to a judge about a problem, but a staff person may hear about it, and a good staff person will get the word either to the judge who is the subject of the comment, or to the chief judge or somebody else in power. So the conditions are optimum, I think, for high ethical behavior by the judiciary, and that is what we have.
Mr. COBLE. Judge, I think if you answer favorably, you are self-serving. But I would be happy to hear from you nonetheless.
Judge OSTEEN. It would be, but except for one thing, Mr. Chairman, which may not be known generally. That is, in addition to the innate ability in what I think is a tremendous ethical standard built by judges themselves. I can speak relative to the Code of Conduct Committee for just a moment.
I have been a Member of that Committee for 6 1/2 years now, and every Member of the Committee reviews every single inquiry that is made of judges. During that time, there have been judgesI believe that it would be an accurate figure to say, in 6 1/2 years, about 4 to 500 inquiries, formal inquiries, of the Committee by judges themselves asking, is this type of conduct in keeping with the code of conduct?
Our Committee has no authority to police. It has no authority to demand that anybody do anything. We simply advise. And I am happy to say that I am not aware of a single incident in which the Code of Conduct Committee has issued an opinion which the judges haven't complied with. And some of them are very close questions.
Page 136 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
And I don't mean their questions indicate that they are trying to go out on the cutting edge to plow new ground, but in the framework of relatively few very strict canons of conduct, judges are trying to comply with what is required of us, not only from the standpoint of what actually is required, but from the perception of what is required also.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you, Your Honor.
Even though the red light is not on because of a faulty machine, my time has expired. The gentleman from California.
Mr. BERMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Judge Osteen, I haveI don't know if it is a comparable experience, but I have the misfortune of being the Ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, the ethics committee. And so I get involved in this miserable self-regulatory process. And in some ways, at least in the Federal judiciary, you are dealing with a large number of people all over the country that you don't have direct contact with on a regular basis. Here it is a little more intimate, and it is a tough job.
And so I commend you for being a part of that process, because I don'tI am not sure what the better alternative is than self-regulation and this process, but it is never comfortable to have to judgemake judgments about your peers.
First, this question of financial disclosure. There has been a theme from one or more of the witnesses that the financial disclosure obligations on judges are there, but they are not always enforced. We have the samewe have a situation here where Members and staff have to file financial disclosure forms; and from the time in May, when those forms are due, for the next number of months, both the staff of the Committee that I serve on, and even people sent over from GAO, systematically go through each financial disclosure form and compare it with previous forms to see what comes out from that, at least that facial review of the forms filed and whether there is the need for changes or corrections, or indications of improprieties, violating outside earnings limitations, things like that.
Page 137 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
What is the process for some check on whether or not the forms filed, at least on their face, comply with the obligations to make financial disclosure?
Judge OSTEEN. Congressman, I can speak personally from that because I file a financial statement with the appropriate places each year that we have had one. Practically each year I received a letter back from the Members of the Committee saying, Would you explain this, would you explain that. And it is pretty much in detail.
Now, I believe that I tried to explain, when I filed the statement, what my situation was, but I can assure you that it is not taken for granted by that Committee.
Now, I am not on that Committee, the financial disclosure, but I file my statement annuallyand not only I, but my secretary will vouch for this, toobut practically every year we get a return saying, Please explain this.
Mr. BERMAN. You are saying there is a systematic process of review of the financial disclosure forms?
Judge OSTEEN. I can say every single one filed by district judges and, I assume, every other judge is reviewed by someone outside the circuit in which I reside. For instance, mine would not be handled by someone in the Fourth Circuit but somewhere else. Somewhere down the line it is reviewed by someone on the Committee.
Mr. BERMAN. There are limitations, of course, to that process. A person who willfully does not include or perhaps even inadvertently doesn't include something that he or she was required to include, that kind of review will notwill probably not detect that omission.
Page 138 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Judge OSTEEN. Oh, no. It would not.
Mr. BERMAN. I think, Mr. KendallI think it is Mr. Kendall who mentioned, are these educational seminars? We are required to report when we go on one of these seminars that they have some connection with official duties.
Judge OSTEEN. You wouldn't call it a ''junket,'' would you?
Mr. BERMAN. We call them ''fact-finding missions,'' but not crusades. But I take it there is an obligationthe implicationan obligation to report those seminars.
Judge OSTEEN. The value of the reimbursement and the value of the seminar itself.
Mr. BERMAN. What happens to the 19 judges, if that is accuratethe number isn't that importantwho didn't report that?
Judge OSTEEN. Well, my guess isand I don't know what has happened to those because I can't speak personally. The oneswhichever one you may select, I know of no particular number of judges who did not report that.
I do know that in the beginning, there was some question about whether and how to report that, and some judges did not until it was called to their attention by Members of the Committee. And the AO also sent out information saying essentially that this kind of thing must be reported on the form. So what has happened to specific people.
Page 139 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I don't know the answer to that.
Mr. BERMAN. Just on that issue, because my time has expired, tell me whatelaborate on this notion that 19 didn't file. How do you know?
Mr. KENDALL. I know that about 12 percent of the judges who were on a list prepared by FREE
Mr. COBLE. Mr. Kendall pull that mike a little closer. My hearing is failing in my old age.
Mr. KENDALL. Community Rights Counsel obtained a list that FREE put up as part of their invitation to new judges, which included all the judges who attended their programs between 1992 and 1996. We then compared that against the Federal judges' disclosure forms for those years and found that 13 of those 109 judges hadn't reported it. It is like 17 or 18 didn't report it originally, and then four or five reported it after this issue came to light.
And the financial disclosure office sent this letter to every judge saying, If you didn't disclose it, you really have to now. So four or five did disclose it afterwards; 13 never did despite that warning.
So there is a problem of nondisclosure. Not every judgethe disclosure requirement is clear, and I think the vast majority of judges understand it and comply with it. But a considerable minority do not. And, second of all, there is a problem of judges not disclosing everything that financial disclosure law requires. As Judge Osteen just mentioned, disclosure law requires that you disclose the value of the gift, and judges are almost never doing that.
Page 140 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. BERMAN. I know my time is up, but you refer to it as a ''gift.'' we do not refer toI will be personal here.
One of the most valuable experiences I have in Congress is participating in Aspen Institute seminars on different subjects. They are ongoing seminars that occur yearly and usually at a nice place. Aspen Institute funds them, and we bring in top experts from around the country and the world. We don't call that a ''gift.'' I mean, we call that a trip connected with our official business for which we are reimbursed; and we disclose who funds it and the value of what we were reimbursed, but we don't call it a ''gift.''.
Mr. KENDALL. As I understand the judiciary's regulation that implements the Ethics Reform Act, tuition, room and board, things paid directly by an organization like FREE are considered gifts, and those must be disclosed and the value of those must be estimated.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you, Howard.
We are going to have a second round, folks. I think this is an issue that needs to be thoroughly examined. We have been joined by the distinguished gentleman from the Roanoke Valley of Virginia. Let me recognize Mr. Jenkins first since he was here prior to your arrival.
Page 141 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC He also, by the way, was a judge in his earlier life.
Mr. JENKINS. Let me ask a question.
Judge Osteen, you mentioned a number of cases, 560,000 cases over what, a 2- or 3-year period?
Judge OSTEEN. What that is, Congressman, is in 1999 there were 264,000 cases filed in Federal jurisdictions throughout the United States. It ordinarily takes about 2 years for an average case to run its course in the Federal system. So since we were talking about taking 2 years to run its course, I have simply taken two averages, 264,000 twice, to come with 520,000 cases. That is 264,000 each year.
Mr. JENKINS. All right. And the fractional amount, or number that you mentioned, was 17 ten-thousandths?
Judge OSTEEN. Yes, sir.
Mr. JENKINS. Is that the number of cases in which allegations of impropriety were made?
Judge OSTEEN. Yes.
Mr. JENKINS. In the number of cases, how many is that?
Page 142 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Judge OSTEEN. Number of cases, it is less than 100. The originator of the information to the public was Joe Stevens of the Kansas City Star, who found what he considered to be 57 questionable cases. Mr. Kendall and the CRC found an additional 17 cases and reported those. But in the interest of putting the whole matter on the table, I added to that ten cases from New York, seven cases from Minneapolis and four cases from all over, making almost 100or a little less than 100, but I rounded it off to 100.
Mr. JENKINS. In those cases where there were allegations of wrongdoing, do you have any information on the number where there was a conclusion at the outcome of that case that there was found to be wrongdoing?
Judge OSTEEN. No, sir. I don't know of any that were found. Of that 100let me be a little more specific on that. The 100, there were a number of cases in which a judge to whom the case was originally signedassigned, simply signed off on a motion to extend time for answering the complaint or simply signed off on a matter of setting a discovery plannothing of substance at that point.
Another area is that there were some cases in which it was later determined that the allegation had been made from the financial disclosure list rather than the recusal list, and the financial disclosure list is simply not current. It is once a year. A recusal list of a judge is a continuing and everyday matter. So some allegations were made from last year's financial statement, and the judge had sold the stock and was no longer in conflict.
In some of them, there were cases in which a spouse had purchased stock without the notice of the judge. And in some cases, a judge had purchased stock through a broker and had simply not recusedseveral reasons for that. One, a case can be started in the name of XYZ plaintiff or defendant. During the course of litigation, XYZ can be purchased by another entity or purchase another entity, which could cause at that point a conflict if that purchase or purchasing entity becomes known. But if it is not known to the judge, then the judge has no way of knowing that he would be in a conflicted position.
Page 143 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
That is a long way about saying that there are many reasons for why, and there are some in which a judge did not recuse for whatever reason, I don't know, but that is very few. I have found no appellate cases which indicate that there was a wrong decision substantively made by any judge who was even alleged to be in that number of less than 100, which in fact, in my opinion, is considerably smaller than that for purposes of serious consequences.
Mr. JENKINS. We have to conclude from these figures that those are going very well, unless there is a total lack of reporting of incidents and allegations of wrongdoing?
Judge OSTEEN. I cannot reach any other conclusion with that. I think it is so minute that it isthere are going to be some human errors anytime, anywhere; and the judiciary has done a good job in policing itself. The judiciary is the one that came up with the recusal idea, in 1978, I guess it was.
Mr. JENKINS. Let me ask you, are all Federal judges under the same standard or were there statutes or rules promulgated that placed a different standard on Federal judges? Sometimes in the State courts, the supreme court will issue a regulation that will grandfather judges in and allow ownership of certain properties for those who are already on the bench. But in the future, they will be prohibited.
Judge OSTEEN. No grandfather clause.
Mr. JENKINS. There is no similar double standard for Federal judges?
Page 144 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Judge OSTEEN. There is no double standard. And I am not sure I understood your question correctly. But if I did, you said, are all judges subject to this code of conduct, and the answer to that is no. Supreme Court justices are not.
Mr. JENKINS. Thank you very much, Judge.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you, Mr. Jenkins.
The gentleman from Virginia.
Mr. GOODLATTE. I have no questions.
Mr. COBLE. Let us start a second round. I think this warrants a second round.
Mr. Kendall, every group needs watchdogs. And I would classify you as a watchdog and that is a compliment. I never believed that the Federal judiciary ought to be fed with a preferential spoon while the rest of us are fed more rigidly, or less flexibly or more inflexibly; but I don't think they should be penalized, conversely, because they happen to be Federal judges.
But let me put a hypothetical to you, if I may; and hypothetical questions, I know, can be troublesome. And Judge Osteen, I want to put this same question to each of you. And the question is, what constitutes a financial conflict of interest for a judge?
Page 145 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
As you pointed out, Your Honor, you said there are some close calls. If a judge owns an IRA, mutual fund or 401(k) which contains hundreds of stocks, including that of XYZ corporation, should that judge then be compelled to recuse himself or herself from adjudicating a dispute between XYZ and another litigant?
What do you say?
Mr. KENDALL. The answer is absolutely not. And I think it is absolutely clear under the financial conflict rules that ownership of broad-based mutual funds that include stocks in corporations does not constitute a financial conflict. And that is why I think we can be so demanding about judges avoiding actual financial conflicts, because the judiciary and judges can own stock in corporations around the country through the simplethrough buying mutual funds instead of buying individual shares in companies.
I think I need to say something in response to the last answer Judge Osteen gave. I don't think it is at all fair to compare stock conflicts found in Kansas City with the entire docket of the Federal judiciary. The fact of the matter is that the Kansas City Star found that more than 50 percent of the judges that they examined had ruled in at least one matter in which they own stock or in which they had a disqualifying financial conflict.
In our Community Rights Counsel study, we found that in a single year, looking only at decisions on the merits issued by Federal appellate judges, more than 5 percent of our Federal judges in a single year ruled in a case in which they had a disqualifying financial conflict. If that is perfection or close to it, I need a new dictionary.
Page 146 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
And, again, I think we need to go back to the comparison between how stock conflicts are treated through the Department of Justice and the judiciary. Again, in a single case of a stock conflict with the judiciary, the line of attorneys at the Department of Justice would be thrown out the door. Again, I don't think there is any mechanism in place for policing stock conflicts with judges in terms of consequences for doing so.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you.
Your Honor, do you want to be heard?
Does anybody else want to be heard?
Judge OSTEEN. Just as to your question about mutual funds, and I agree with Mr. Kendall on the ownership.
Mr. COBLE. I think that is a fair answer.
Let me put this to you: One thing that was mentioned in the Kansas City instanceI believe I am right about thismost of the judges who got into trouble with financial disclosure issues were district court judges, as opposed to appellate court judges. I think that is right. Is that right?
Mr. KENDALL. The study was of two in Kansas City, one in Oregon and one in Pennsylvania.
Page 147 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. COBLE. Is this disparity because there is a lack of unified rules for both? I would assume that is not the case, Judge.
Judge OSTEEN. Unified rule for what?
Mr. COBLE. The Kansas City case, most of the judges who were involved with, quote, violating the rulemaybe not in quotewere district court judges, not appellate court judges.
Is that just because they emphasized district court judges?
Judge OSTEEN. I think that is what they did, they reviewed the district court judges.
And I might add one thing. That was a 6 1/2-year study; not a single year or 2 years, but Mr. Stevens reviewed 6 1/2 years over that period.
Mr. COBLE. Mr. Remington, the 1993 National Commission which studied the issue of judicial discipline recommended that committee appointed by circuit counsel should, for the evaluation of serious complaints, be partially comprised of nonjudges. Elaborate, if you will, how this would work, how this will be executed; and would such a change engender intense resentment among judges comprising the abilitycompromising the ability of the committees to perform their duties? What do you say to that?
Page 148 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. REMINGTON. That is a good question, and I may defer to Professor Hellman on this because he is more experienced in actual bench and bar integration.
Mr. COBLE. I should have put that question to each of you.
Mr. REMINGTON. But the Commission's recommendation, you accurately described it, would allow the circuit counsel, presumably through the chief judge, to appoint respected members of the bar and informed citizens to help out in this process, either in the formal dispute discipline decision-making or in the informal process involved in what do you do with a disabled judge or a senile judge or can wehow do we handle this?
It would be discretionary. It has not been, to the best of my knowledge, implemented in any of the circuits, even the circuits that have taken a lead on integration of the bar to assist the judges.
The exception to that rule would probably be the Ninth Circuit where Professor Hellman has most of his experience. There must be some reason that this was not implemented by any of the circuits, but I don't personally believe that there would be intense resentment of judges to members of the bar.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, it is a good question. I think that there probably is some sort of subliminal feeling amongst the judges that they can decide these things on their own, either informally or formallyI thank you very much, to the bar and informed lay persons, we simply don't need you in this processbut it is not intense resentment.
Page 149 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. COBLE. Professor?
Mr. HELLMAN. I think one of the most important findings of the Federal Judicial Center study finding that was carried out for the National Commission was its study of the informal processes; and I think this is an impartial answer, Mr. Chairman, to your question because one of the striking findings of the study was how important these informal processes were to the correction of problems involving misconduct or disability among Federal judges. And at the same time, one of the core relative findings was that success was dependent in part on the existence of the statute.
But this is something that the chief judge typically does. It is very hard to see how the chief judge could involve anyone from outside the court, perhaps evenit may even be difficult to involve other judges, because one of the key things the chief judge has as a bargaining chip really is the prospect of keeping the matter from going public.
There is, in fact, a very poignant vignette in the Center study. The chief judge was trying to persuade a particular judge to retire, and there is no clue as to what the problem was, but probably some kind of disability, and the judge was resisting retirement, but the judge's spouse knew about section 372(c). And the spouse thought that the worst thing that could happen would be a 372(c) complaint at the end of the judge's illustrious career. So in the end, that prevailed. But the prospect of any sort of sharing that information outside the closest family of the court would have destroyed the prospect of that successful conclusion.
So I think that is a partial answer as to why the process has been kept as close as it has been.
Page 150 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. REMINGTON. Mr. Chairman, could I just add that there is a more recent illustration, and I am not at liberty to divulge the judge's name and I wasn't at all involved, but it did involve the chief judge of the circuit inviting the spouse to the courtroom to sit and watch the other spouse in action as a judge; and it resulted in a decision, an informal decision by the spouse that the judge should not hear any more cases. So it did involve somebody not involved in the judicial family. And that postdated the famous Judicial Center study of 1993 and 1994.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you, sir.
I am now the victim of the red light, so I will recognize the gentleman from California.
Mr. BERMAN. First, Professor Hellman, your point on recused judges, on the question of whether or not to go en banc wasn't that they are now voting on the en banc matter; it is, if you require an absolute majority, they in effect become a no vote.
Mr. HELLMAN. That is exactly right. It is sort of like comparing that for every recused judge that is in fact automatically counted as a no vote, which means that the panel decision is more likely to stand and that is affecting the outcome of the case. And a recused judge shouldn't affect the outcome of the case.
Mr. BERMAN. Do you think this is now a matter that the Congress should address?
Page 151 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. HELLMAN. It may be the sort of thing that could be handled by the rules amendment process. There is wide power in the rules process to amend the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. Probably it could be done.
As far as I am aware, the Appellate Rules Committee has never exhibited the slightest interest in this problem. It has been known for years and years. The Supreme Court declined the opportunity when it was presented squarely a few years ago to resolve it. So nobody else is going to do anything about it, and this is Congress' statute.
It is an ambiguity in the statute. It is a legitimate ambiguity. The circuits are evenly divided, as they can be, as to how to interpret it. And this is a function of an oversight hearing to find out these little problems that nobody thought of when the statute was written; and it is something you can, I think, deal with.
But thank you for the question.
Mr. BERMAN. In your introduction, the Chairman mentioned that you are in charge of a committee evaluating the Ninth Circuit.
Mr. HELLMAN. I was a Member of the committee, not just a foot soldier.
Mr. BERMAN. This wasn't Chief Justice Rehnquist saying, take a look at the Ninth Circuit. What kind of a committee was this?
Page 152 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. HELLMAN. This was a committee that was appointed by Chief Judge Hug of Reno, NV, after the commission appointed by Chief Justice Rehnquist and chaired by Justice Byron White reported.
The White Commission, as you are well aware
Mr. BERMAN. So this was about the split?
Mr. HELLMAN. It was not about the split. I have to be careful here because as a Member of the committee which has now completed its report, I want to be careful in my description.
But the chief judge was careful in his charge. And Judge Thompson of San Diego was very careful in his directions to us to say we were not looking at split issues.
Mr. BERMAN. What were you looking at?
Mr. HELLMAN. Whether the Court of Appeals was doing its job.
Mr. BERMAN. Presumably, if the conclusion is that it wasn't functioning that well because of case load and size and distance, then maybe people would take what you find and go from there, rather than going to the ultimate question?
Mr. HELLMAN. Yes. We were not addressing the legislative issues. That, of course, belongs with Congress.
Page 153 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. BERMAN. That probably isn't the purpose of this hearing, but it is an issue that I have interest in.
But Advisory Opinion 67, Mr. Kendall, do you think particularly that part of itI don't know what it all says, but this whole issuewhere it says it is improper for a judge to participate in a seminar if the source or sponsor ofif the sponsor of the seminar or the source of funding is a litigant and if it is a topic to be in some manner related to the litigation.
Is that an appropriate standard? Is your argument with Advisory Opinion 67 or how it is being interpreted?
Mr. KENDALL. I think it is both. My argument is with both Advisory Opinion 67 generally and how it is being interpreted.
I think one of the biggest problems with Advisory Opinion 67 is that it gives an ambiguous and complex answer to what I think, when judges should take a gift in relation to a continuing education program. The judiciary, as far as I know, has never defined many of the critical terms, such as involved in a litigation, what is the subject matter of the litigation with respect to Advisory Opinion 67? And as I understand their testimony today, even the source of funding, which I thought was pretty clear, is now more ambiguous than it was.
I think a second problem with Advisory Opinion 67 is that it requires, at least as I read it, the collection of a whole lot of information about who each organization's funding sources are, what litigation activities those funding sources are involved in, et cetera, and what the program schedule is, et cetera; and doesn't help the judiciary at all in collectingor individual judges at all in collecting that information.
Page 154 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
And so it is burdensome to place the burden on judges to collect and ascertain all that information before attending one of these seminars.
Mr. BERMAN. Let me justI realize you haven't finished answering that question, but I don't know how you are going to. Let us go to the basic issues here. I will just throw out a few things and get your expertise.
Is it wrong for judges, do you think itis your issue that they should never be going to these seminars, that they should not be going to seminars that are not balanced in their perspective, that they should not be going to seminars that have any form of private funding? Which means there will be no seminars, because my guess is the line item for Congress to appropriate money for seminars for judges will not last a long time, and the judges will probably have it put into the pay. But in other words, I want to get a fix on what the concern is.
Mr. KENDALL. I think the concern is that corporations and foundations that have an interest in Federal court litigation are funding continuing legal education programs for judges; and I don't quite know why we are allowing them to do so. The combined budgets of FREE, the Law and Economics Centerevery group that is funding these programs is under $10 million, probably far under $10 million. It would be a very small problem to solve.
And more fundamentally
Page 155 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BERMAN. What is a small problem to solve?
Mr. KENDALL. If the budget for continuing legal education is necessary, at least under existing practices for Federal judges, if the taxpayers paid for every seminar that any Federal judge attended, that line item in the budget would be under $10 millionprobably be under $2 million by my calculations.
But I think just more fundamentally, we have to disabuse ourselves of the notion that judges have some God-given or constitutional right to accept a gift worth thousands of dollars, given to them solely because of their position as a public servant.
I think, similarly, we have to disabuse ourselves of the notion that corporations and foundations have some sort of right to pay for the continuing legal education for judges. Certainly, again going back to the comparison to U.S. Attorneys, Department of Justice officials, other public servants involved in litigation, they have absolutely no ability to accept gifts in association with this. There is an absolute bar on gifts associated with educational seminars for other public servants involved in litigation.
So maybe there should be a different standard for judges. Maybe there should be some exceptions for seminars done by institutions of higher education, seminars done by bar associations. But I think we need to look at this from the perspective of a litigant who is fighting a corporation in a tort claim and finds out that the corporation has, even in small part, funded a trip, seminar, vacation, junket, whatever you call it, for the judge presiding over their case. And I think if you look at it from that perspective, which I think is the only perspective you can look at it from if you are worried about the public's confidence in the judiciary, you come up with a pretty rigid standard.
Page 156 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Maybe you might have some exception that judges can take gifts by certain universities and bar associations, but you will define those exceptions pretty narrowly.
Mr. BERMAN. I think you make a very legitimate point.
Now, life is filled with certain things which at least have the appearance of unfairness. The judge in the small town who socializes at the club or wherever with the top lawyers from the town, and the outside lawyer comes in representing some litigant and how he isthere areI mean, it isas much as I would like to see all the judges up in a vacuum to chase and never deal with the sort of the social and personal and political and financial aspects of life.
Butmaybe one can say we understand those, but maybe this is a little different, and we should look at it.
Mr. KENDALL. Well, I think the difference is simply the size of the gift. I mean, we are talking a gift worth between $1 and $7,000 for each of these trips.
Mr. BERMAN. We don't call that a ''gift.''
Mr. KENDALL. No one is arguing that judges should be hermits. Nobody is burning books. Nobody is suggesting that judges should be in any way limited in what they read, what programs even they go to.
Page 157 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As Judge Osteen says in his written testimony, judges can go to any program they want to as long as they pay their own way. I really have no problem with the Federal Government providing money and judges going to any seminar they want, and there is some sort of budget.
Mr. BERMAN. What if it is a big nonprofit foundation that decides the education and seminar process for judges is something in the national interest, and we are going to put togetherthe Ford Foundation decideswe think everyone understands law, economics and environmental considerations to a level that you really just don't get in the handling of a caseI am getting a little long here, but I mean, would that make a difference perhaps if it was
Mr. KENDALL. I think there are a lot of ways of solving the problem. I know a number of people have a lot of ideas about doing it. So I think there is a lot of disagreement about how, precisely, you should solve this problem. But I think that to start is by recognizing there is a problem.
Mr. COBLE. I thank the gentleman.
The gentleman from Tennessee.
Mr. JENKINS. I don't have any additional questions.
Mr. COBLE. This has been a good hearing, in my opinion, and it will not be put upon the shelf to collect dust, I assure you of that. Let me fire one more round.
Page 158 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Hypothetically, again, I am a grieved litigant and I don't trust Judge Osteenstrike that. I don't trust Judge Doe, and I say, I am going to file a petition asking that Judge Doe recuse himself from this case. My petition is subsequently dismissed. I am not told why.
I have no reasoncan't imagine why it was dismissed. I think it was a meritorious petition. I submitted my facts, and it is summarily dismissed, and I am told to get lost.
Now, Professor Hellman, and the others as well, how often does that happen?
Mr. HELLMAN. Well, I think that first there are two separate processes involved here. There is the process of recusal in an individual case, and thatI am not sure what the usual practice is. Sometimes you will get an opinion from a judge explaining why he or she has not recused him or herself.
There is a famous opinion by then-Justice Rehnquist explaining at length why he was not recusing himself despite a prior contact with some of the issues in a case. But I am sure many of them are notare not explained.
Now, that kind of situation focused on a particular case would not, I think, come within the Judicial Discipline Act, because one of the exceptions of the act is for challenges involving particular rulings in particular cases. And so, in that situation, the only redress would be to take an appeal.
Page 159 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Now, if there is a pattern of failure to recuse, that is arguably something that could be the subject of a complaint. And here we get, I think, into a somewhat broader question than you raised, Mr. Chairman, which is the importance of an explanation when the judiciary acts. It cuts across almost everything that judges do, and especially things that judges do that are in a process that is invisible.
If an individual files a grievance, it goes into the system. He never has a chanceand this is understandable, but he doesn't have a chance to argue it and present his case orally, as is typically done on the case on the merits. And all he gets is a conclusory form order. Then I think he understandably feels aggrieved once again that no one has taken his case seriously.
So one of the most important recommendations, I think, of the National Commissionand Mr. Remington will correct me if I am wrong on thiswas that the chief judges should be very rigorous in giving explanations when they reject a complaint.
Mr. COBLE. I concur. I think many people become disarmed when they have to go to court. A traffic ticket, for example, my gosh, I hate to go there. I have never been to court before. And I think thisthis answer to my question addresses the problem.
I think if a person is summarily dismissed and not told why, I can see why he is going to be sore. Anywheredoes anybody else want to be heard on this?
Mr. REMINGTON. I want to agree with Professor Hellman about a large number of those people filing judicial discipline complaints. And as Professor Hellman indicated, that is not appropriate.
Page 160 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I would like to add two points about legislative proposals that are in my statement that parallel Professor Hellman's idea about the recusal. I sat at this counsel table in 1985 when Judge Claiborne was impeached, and I remember Chairman Sensenbrenner's resolution and Members of Congress were amazed that judges could continue to accrue toward retirement on the Rule of 80, and they were amazed that judges could continue to get assigned cases even when they were in jail.
And I know that this is not important. These are not issues we have seen ever since, fortunately. But these are two little amendments that the Commission recommended. They have never been taken up, and I would recommend them for your consideration.
Nonetheless, I think the public deserves some semblance of accountability in the system, and we ought not create economic incentives for incarcerated judges to sit on the bench.
Mr. COBLE. I concur. They should have more a feeling of east and comfort rather than alarm. And maybe it is up to all of us jointly and severally to take care of that. Howard, anymore questions?
Mr. BERMAN. Judge Osteen, you talked about recusal. Someone else talked about Iowa where you put the recusal lists on the Web site and insist that the attorneys for the litigants make reference to that.
Is there some Federal obligation to prepare your own recusal list? I don't know, whoever wants to. In other words, do you have a recusal list?
Page 161 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Judge OSTEEN. Yes, sir, I do.
Mr. BERMAN. Do you have it because you have to have it?
Judge OSTEEN. I have to have it because I have to make a decision as to whether or not I can handle a case or not.
Mr. BERMAN. You can do it case by case?
Judge OSTEEN. You can do it case by case. But I can't do it unless I have a current list of my stock holdings. So I have to keep that current in order for me to comply with the requirements.
Mr. BERMAN. I can remember mine in my head.
Judge OSTEEN. Mine is not much more than that, if at all. But it does help if you have a spouse who may be buying stock. You get that list current.
Mr. BERMAN. Under the Federal Rules, the judges have to have such a list; or is that your decision?
Judge OSTEEN. I don't know of any list that is required by rule. But I do know that there is no way I can do it without a list. And I also know that there have beenthe AO has come out with a great deal of help on computer-assisted information to help prepare lists.
Page 162 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. BERMAN. It is not just an issue, then, of putting a list on a district court Web site. It is an issue of whether or not to require a recusal list, although I think the financial disclosure form
Judge OSTEEN. Financial disclosure form is not a current list because it is a yearly list.
Mr. COBLE. Anything further?
Ms. Hart, would you like to be heard?
We very much appreciate the contribution that the witnesses have extended today. We thank you very much for that. The Subcommittee is appreciative.
Now, we have accepted or made part of the record information from third parties who are very concerned about this issue and those matters will be made a part of our record.
Mr. COBLE. This concludes the oversight hearing on the operations of Federal judicial misconduct statutes. The record will remain open for 1 week, so if you all have additional information to submit, feel free to do so.
Thank you for your cooperation. And the Subcommittee stands adjourned.
Page 163 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [Whereupon, at 12 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Material Submitted for the Hearing Record
Page 164 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Page 165 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCFeld1A.eps
Page 166 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Page 167 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCMcNew3D.eps
Page 168 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Page 169 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCBrief1F.eps
Page 170 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
(Footnote 1 return)
Public Law 101650, 104 Stat. 5124, codified at 28 U.S.C. §332, 372.
(Footnote 2 return)
Federal Judicial Salary Control Act of 1981, Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Courts of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 97th Cong., 2nd Sess. 3738 (1982) (statement of Hon. Elmo Hunter).
(Footnote 3 return)
See Hearing on the Report of the National Commission on Judicial Discipline and Removal Before the House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property and Judicial Administration, 103rd Cong., 1st Sess. at 910 (1993) (remarks of Robert W. Kastenmeier); see also Long Range Plan for the Federal Courts at 89 (Judicial Conference of the United States, January 1995).
(Footnote 4 return)
See Judicial Business of the United States Courts, 2000 Annual Report of the Director 3537 (2000).
(Footnote 5 return)
Frank M. Johnson, Jr., ''Judicial Independence Once More an Issue,'' 65 ABA Journal 342 (1979).
(Footnote 6 return)
For further information about aspects of the 1980 Act relating to the councils, see Remington, Michael J., Circuit Council Reform: A Boat Hook for Judges and Court Administrators, 1981 Brig.Y.L. Rev. 695.
(Footnote 7 return)
See generally Hearings on Judicial Independence: Discipline and Conduct Before the House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Administration of Justice, 101st Cong., 1st Sess. (1989); see also Kastenmeier, Robert W. & Remington, Michael J., Judicial Discipline: A Legislative Perspective, 76 Ky. L. Rev. 763 (198788) (reprinted in hearing record at p. 105).
(Footnote 8 return)
See Research Papers of the National Commission and Judicial Discipline & Removal (1993); see also Disciplining the Federal Judiciary, 142 Penn L. Rev. 1430 (1993).
(Footnote 9 return)
Of particular usefulness was the Center's study on the ''Administration of the Federal Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980'' by Jeffrey N. Barr and Thomas E. Willging. See Research Papers at 477; Jeffrey N. Barr & Thomas E. Willging, Decentralized Self-Regulation, Accountability, and Judicial Independence Under the Federal Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980, 142 Penn. L. Rev. at 25.
(Footnote 10 return)
See Hearings of the National Commission and Judicial Discipline & Removal (1993).
(Footnote 11 return)
The Report is available on the ABA's website, <http://www.abanet.org/govaffairs/judiciary/r6a.html>.
(Footnote 12 return)
Committee on Codes of Conduct Advisory Opinion No. 67 (August 20, 1980, revised July 10, 1998).