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
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."