DECEMBER 26, 2006
If the senior judges that govern the nation’s federal court system have their way, Congress will reject a law that would create transparency and enhance ethics in the country’s judicial system.
The proposed bill, Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act of 2006, offers to create an inspector general for the courts that would investigate fraud, waste and abuse as well as audit federal judicial expenditures and recommend changes in laws or regulations governing the judicial branch.
Already 57 U.S. Government agencies have inspector generals that annually expose a plethora of public corruption. Why not the court system, with its long and documented history of judicial misconduct? Some veteran judges, including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, say a watchdog for the federal courts is a “really scary idea” that reminds her of the old Soviet Union.
The Judicial Conference of the United States, created by Congress in 1922 to serve as the administrative governing body of the U.S. federal court system, is also strongly opposed to the concept of transparency in the judiciary. The Judicial Conference’s senior judges have said that any legislation creating an inspector general would threaten the independence of judicial decision making and will have serious implications for the separation of powers. The judges therefore believe a watchdog is an entirely unnecessary and inappropriate imposition of control.
The bill actually was created in response to disturbing reports that a number of federal judges continuously violated ethical rules and engaged in judicial misconduct. It motivated Wisconsin Congressman James Sensenbrenner to introduce the Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act this year. The question is will Congress, itself immersed in a culture of corruption, pass it into law?
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