Complaints Against Judges - Judicial Business 2013
Under the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 351-364, any person alleging that a judge has engaged in conduct prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts, or that a judge cannot discharge all the duties of the office because of physical or mental disability, may file a complaint with the clerk of the court of appeals for the circuit in which the judge holds office or, if the judge serves on a national court, with the office specified in that court's rules. The complaint must concern the actions or capacity of a circuit judge, a district judge, a bankruptcy judge, a magistrate judge, or a judge of a court specified in 28 U.S.C. § 363.
The number of complaints filed in 2013 was 1,219, an 11 percent decline from the 2012 total. Litigants accounted for 55 percent of the complaints filed, and prison inmates accounted for 43 percent. The categories of allegations with the most complaints were erroneous decision (879), other misconduct (297), personal bias against the litigant or attorney (259), and conflict of interest (160).
Chief judges dismissed 1,147 complaints in whole or in part. This total includes complaints that later were terminated with finality by judicial council orders on petitions for review or that were still pending for further review at the end of 2013. Frequently cited reasons for dismissal were the following: the complaint was directly related to the merits of decisions or procedural rulings (86 percent); the allegations lacked sufficient evidence (65 percent); and the allegations were frivolous (19 percent). (The percentages total more than 100 percent because multiple reasons may be recorded for each dismissal.)
Of the complaints filed in 2013 or pending from previous years, 1,167 were terminated by final action in 2013. Of the 600 complaints terminated by chief judges, 594 were terminated by dismissal, and 6 were concluded in whole or in part because of intervening events. Of the 561 complaints terminated by judicial councils, 559 culminated in denials of petitions for review of chief judges' dismissals, and 2 were dismissed after a report by a special investigating committee. Six complaints were terminated because the complaint was withdrawn–four by the complainant after the initial complaint was filed and two after a petition for review was filed. Because the number of complaints commenced exceeded the number terminated, pending complaints rose 6 percent to 879.
The Chief Justice of the United States transferred one complaint from the Fifth Circuit to the DC Circuit.