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Judicial misconduct is any action by a judge that is deemed unethical or an abuse of the judge's impartiality. There are many different ways a judge can commit misconduct, ranging from taking bribes, to improper campaigning, to improperly discussing a case, or even being hostile to members of a court trial. These standards differ from country to country, but usually reflect a moral code set in place to dictate a judge's actions. If a judge is accused of misconduct, a judicial investigation committee is organized and a penalty can be given.
A judge is expected to be an impartial expert in the law and to keep any court proceedings fair and legal. There are several opportunities for malfeasance in office, or misbehavior, with this incredibly powerful position. Many judicial systems have rules in place to direct how judges should behave, such as the American Bar Association's Model Code of Judicial Conduct in the United States. These codes outline cannons regarding the integrity, duties and professionalism a judge must use to perform his or her job. Failure to do so often results in judicial misconduct.
One type of judicial misconduct is accepting bribes, gifts or personal favors. This means a judge cannot accept anything of value, whether it is money or even something as simple as a free meal. These rules are in place because special treatment or benefits may negatively effect the judge's impartiality.
Judges that must campaign for their position are often the subject of judicial misconduct scrutiny. There are many rules in place regarding what can and cannot be done during a political campaign for a judge's seat. One of the most common unethical actions on the political trail is making misleading or untrue statements about oneself or the competition.
Hostility on the bench is another common source of legal problems. Complaints can be filed by attorneys, defendants and plaintiffs who feel the judge was biased in any way. Judicial misconduct can also occur when a judge discusses specific details outside of the courtroom with an individual who is not associated with the trial. There are many other ethical and moral violations, but these are just a few of the more common.
When judicial misconduct is suspected, most governmental systems have a process in place to investigate these claims. One common form is the Judicial investigative committee. This committee consists of several other judges that review the facts of the misconduct the same way they would a court trial. If a judge is found in violation, warnings can be issued, suspensions given and judicial jobs taken away, depending on the severity of violation.
Thanks for another superb article. I was doing some research on judicial misconduct, but I don't have a clear understanding of this type of misconduct. Because of this, I was looking for an article that spoke in layman terms. This was it for me. Easy to understand - just what I wanted! -- Kristi A.
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