How States Are Responding to Misbehaving Judges
New Fix the Court research takes a look at recent incidents of misconduct by judges in Arkansas, California, Georgia, Nebraska and New York and policy changes made in those states as a result.
First off, it’s not only the federal judiciary that has a problem of harassment among its ranks.
And states confronting harassment in the judiciary each seem to have their own unique, frankly underwhelming, methods of handling complaints and (attempting to) improve overall anti-harassment training and directives.
In the end, it looks as if judges accused of misconduct – even those who committed several such acts – can simply retire with full benefits, as they can at the federal level, and without further examination, save in the Arkansas example. And in the states we’ve looked at so far, no constructive statutory changes have been made that would both deter bad behavior and punish it when it occurs.
Instead, there’s been a hodgepodge of responses:
- After his predecessor went to jail, an Arkansas judge brought cameras into the courtroom as a means to make the judiciary more transparent and restore public trust;
- California created its own workplace conduct working group, akin to the one created in the federal courts;
- Georgia lawmakers make a 180-degree turn from its previous policy and convinced voters to allow its formerly independent judicial qualifications committee to come under legislative rule;
- Illinois mandated anti-harassment training for some judges; and
- New York revised its policy on sexual harassment, though not to everyone’s satisfaction.