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Federal Judges Required to Report Judicial Misconduct

By George Khoury, Esq. on June 05, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

While there may be a stigma associated with telling on others, the federal judiciary has decided that enough is enough within their own ranks.

The new workplace changes recommended by the Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group include a requirement for judges to report other judges who cross the line. This is the group that formed in the aftermath of Chief Justice John Roberts' report on misconduct in the judiciary demanding changes. And there's no shortage of stories about judges behaving badly, both in and out of court.

The Bench Isn't Bulletproof

Although many of the new recommendations are just that, some have already been implemented. One such recommendation that has already been acted on involved "clarifying that confidentiality rules in the Judiciary do not prevent law clerks or employees from reporting misconduct by judges." However, many more still need approval from the Judicial Conference.

The findings of the Working Group conclude "that inappropriate conduct, although not pervasive within the Judiciary, is not limited to a few isolated instances." And it further clarified that: "Of the inappropriate behavior that does occur, incivility, disrespect, or crude behavior are more common than sexual harassment."

Though the Working Group did find that there is a commitment from the judiciary to address inappropriate conduct, "leadership is not uniform throughout all court units." In terms of accountability, the group stated: "the most significant challenge to accountability lies in the understandable reluctance of victims, especially law clerks and other temporary employees, to report misconduct." It recommended providing alternative avenues for court employees to redress issues and improving protections.

Reporting Other Judges

On the subject of reporting other judges, the executive summary states the following:

A judge has a responsibility to curtail inappropriate conduct by others, including other judges. The judicial virtues of mutual respect, independence, and collegiality should not prevent a judge from intervening when necessary to protect an employee (including a fellow judge's chambers employee) from inappropriate conduct.

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