Many Americans do not know much about the federal judiciary, only what they see on the news regarding high-profile cases. They seldom hear about the cases which never make the headlines, and remain beneath the public radar. For that reason, they would have little knowledge, or need to know anything about the complaint/disciplinary system of the federal courts. And, since the judges are political appointees, they are unaccountable to the public, and can, pretty much, do as they please. That is except for breaking criminal laws.
First, the complaints are confidential. Yes, the public has no access or right to know about any complaint filed against a federal judge. Second, the complaint is reviewed by the Chief Judge of that particular circuit.
However, the most outrageous provision of the complaint process is the notice to the party complaining is as to results of the complaint. Currently, the rules state, that a complaint cannot change the outcome of a case. Even if the judge was “very wrong”. So, then what is the point? People normally want justice, not revenge. But as it stands, a judge can do whatever he or she wants to do, and the party never gets justice, even if their complaint is valid. ( Go to the home page for the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, and look up judicial misconduct complaints. Then, go to every other circuit court in the nation, and you will find the same provision.)
An attorney can lie on the record, and the judge know about it, but rule in favor of the lying attorney, (wink-wink), and there is nothing that can ever change that ruling via the complaint process. It would appear that this could be considered corruption, but who is going to investigate it as such? No one. Not the FBI or anyone else, that is unless the cameras are rolling and it is a high-profile case. But federal judges make it a point to be on their best behavior when the press is involved. And, even if the Chief Judge finds misconduct, nothing changes for the person who complains. Absolutely nothing!
Sure, an appeal can be filed, but what if the misconduct is within the appeal process? Same story, nothing can be done to change the ‘wrong’ ruling, or, the corrupt ruling. Of course, the party can file a writ with the U.S. Supreme Court, but more likely than not, that Court will not even agree to even hear it, since they have ‘discretion‘ as to which cases they will hear. And, they too, normally take on the cases that are high-profile. Not so much for the little guy who has been wronged by a judge’s wrong/corrupt ruling.
So what happens to the person who has filed a civil case? They lose. In a criminal case? They lose. What happens to the judge? They stay on the bench with more opportunity to be “very wrong”. The losing party is forced to move on and live with a very wrong ruling, but not without a bitter taste in their heart and soul regarding a system they were raised to believe in. A system which points its finger at systems all over the world and looks down its nose at the judicial processes of other countries. A system which prides itself as being the best in the world.
The federal judiciary has written themselves out of accountability, and written individuals out of their right to seek redress. This should not be so. If a federal judge does something wrong, makes a wrong ruling, then the complaint process should not only address the conduct of the judge, but the process should be required to make it right for the party who has lodged the complaint. Otherwise, this complaint process is nothing more than paperwork exchanging friendly hands while the affected party is not only left out in the cold, but with less respect for the judicial system.
An overhaul is long overdue, and the federal judiciary should not be making their own rules relative to discipline and the respective outcomes. These rules should be voted on by the public, especially in light of the fact that the public has nothing to do with their appointment other than via their elected representative, at least the people should have something to say about consequences for judges who are found to be guilty of misconduct. And, the people should have the right to decide if the party affected should be able to have the ruling changed.
This process currently in place is dishonest, and, if the justice system is to remain in high esteem, it needs to be without stain in the manner in which it polices itself.