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September 2006

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


Citing Separation of Powers, ABA Opposes IG for Judiciary

The American Bar Association's House of Delegates voted at its annual meeting last month to oppose legislation that would create an inspector general for the Judiciary. Two bills, H.R. 5219 and S. 2678, have been introduced in Congress that would establish an Office of Inspector General "to conduct investigations of matters pertaining to the Judicial Branch." The ABA has gone on record opposing any congressional proposal creating an Office of Inspector General for the Judiciary with broad investigative powers and close ties to Congress.

The report accompanying the ABA recommendation explains that "the current legislation offends our notions of separation of powers because it would permit the Office of Inspector General to subpoena judges and their documents and investigate specific judges for opinions rendered; creates too close a nexus between Congress and the Office of Inspector General; and re-calibrates checks and balances by expanding the potential opportunity for Congress to intrude into the decisional and institutional independence of the Judiciary."

The ABA applauded the recent efforts of the Judicial Conference to examine and respond to concerns raised by Congress and the public.

Last month, the Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference sent to Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. a status report on the actions of the relevant Conference committees and the Administrative Office with regard to judicial ethics and accountability. Among the actions detailed in the report were a comprehensive review of all Judicial Conference policies on ethical obligations, and an assessment of efforts already underway to aid compliance with those obligations. Additional administrative rules and reporting requirements for recusals and seminar attendance are being considered, and training and updated information on ethical obligations are being provided to judges. The AO recently deployed conflict-checking software in almost every district and bankruptcy court, and is in the process of doing so in the courts of appeals. Judges are being educated in its use. An expanded disclosure policy for private seminar attendance by judges is expected to be considered by the Judicial Conference in September.

The ABA urged the Supreme Court, the Judicial Conference and the circuit council of each judicial circuit "to strengthen public confidence in the courts by regularly engaging in rigorous oversight of judicial administration activities and judicial ethics and promptly adopting and implementing improvements when necessary."