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Judicial Conference Updates Rules for Judicial Conduct Proceedings, Strategic Plan

The Judicial Conference of the United States today adopted amended rules for Judicial Conduct and Disability proceedings that provide for greater transparency and also approved an updated Strategic Plan for the Federal Judiciary.

This is the first revision of the Rules for Judicial-Conduct and Judicial-Disability Proceedings (JC&D Rules) since their adoption by the Conference in 2008. The amendments include dozens of clarifications and restyling and policy changes. They follow a public hearing in October 2014, as well as a period for submission of public written comments. Among the provisions in the new rules are the following:

  • A requirement that chief judge and circuit judicial council final orders disposing of a misconduct or disability complaint be published on a court’s public website. (Rule 24) Previously the JC&D Rules only required that final orders be made public at the office of the circuit clerk or on the court's public website;
  • Two new grounds for “cognizable misconduct” including “retaliating against complainants, witnesses, or others for their participation in the complaint process (Rule 3(h)); or “refusing without good cause shown, to cooperate in the investigation of a complaint under these rules.” (Rule 3(h)); and
  • An expansion of the meaning of “disability” so it may include “impairment of cognitive abilities that renders the judge unable to function effectively.” (Rule 3(h)).

The JC&D Rules govern all proceedings under the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act to determine whether a judge has engaged in “conduct prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts or is unable to discharge the duties of office because of mental or physical disability.” The Rules are mandatory, although circuit judicial councils may promulgate additional rules as long as they do not conflict with the national JC&D Rules.

The 2015 Strategic Plan updates a version last approved by the Judicial Conference in 2010. The updated Plan preserves the Judiciary’s mission and core values and continues to be organized around the following seven strategic issues:

  • Providing Justice
  • The Effective and Efficient Management of Public Resources
  • The Judiciary Workforce of the Future
  • Harnessing Technology’s Potential
  • Enhancing Access to the Judicial Process
  • The Judiciary’s Relationships with the Other Branches of Government
  • Enhancing Public Understanding, Trust and Confidence

The Plan is reviewed every five years by the Judicial Conference. The update of the Plan included an assessment of progress and an analysis of trends, including political, economic, organizational and technological issues. The 2015 plan contains five new goals:

  • Enhance the supervision of offenders and defendants in order to reduce recidivism and improve public safety;
  • Manage the Judiciary’s infrastructure in a manner that supports effective and efficient operations;
  • Improve the extent to which juries are representative of the communities in which they serve;
  • Facilitate the voluntary participation by judges and court staff in public outreach and civic education programs; and
  • Communicate with judges in other countries to share information about the federal Judiciary in our system of justice and to support rule-of-law programs around the world.

The 26-member Judicial Conference is the policy-making body for the federal court system. By statute the Chief Justice of the United States serves as its presiding officer and its members are the chief judges of the 13 courts of appeals, a district judge from each of the 12 geographic circuits, and the chief judge of the Court of International Trade. The Conference meets twice a year to consider administrative and policy issues affecting the court system, and to make recommendations to Congress concerning legislation involving the Judicial Branch.

Related Topics: Judicial Conference of the United States, Judicial Ethics