Court Finds Misconduct by Judge in Landmark Affirmative Action Case Now Before Supreme Court
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, reported today that the acting chief judge of the U.S. Court Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled on May 28 that Chief Judge Boyce F. Martin violated federal and Sixth Circuit rules in a case involving the death penalty and the University of Michigan affirmative action case now before the Supreme Court. In a complaint filed January 30, 2002, Judicial Watch alleged, based in part on dissenting opinions from Chief Judge Martin’s colleagues, that the chief judge improperly manipulated court processes to achieve outcomes he desired. In the University of Michigan affirmative action case (Grutter v. James, 288 F.3d 732 (6th Cir. 2002)), Judicial Watch alleged that it appeared that Chief Judge Martin manipulated court processes and clearly established Sixth Circuit procedures in order to effect the outcome of the case (which upheld the University of Michigan race-based policies). Speaking for the Sixth Circuit, Acting Chief Judge Alice M. Batchelder found that Chief Judge Martin violated the rules when he manipulated court processes which resulted in two conservative and presumably anti-affirmative action judges not being able to be part of the en banc panel that considered the case. The Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the affirmative action polices, and it is clear the outcome would have been different if not for the chief judge keeping two more conservative votes off the case. Chief Judge Martin also was found to have violated rules when he inserted himself onto a three-judge panel appellate hearing the case. The panel was supposed to be drawn randomly.
In the death penalty case (In re Byrd Jr., 269 F.3d 578 (6th Cir. 2002)), Chief Judge Martin was found to have violated the rules when he issued a ruling without consulting his fellow judges and when he withheld an important pleading from them. The effect of the rules violations was to benefit John R. Byrd, who was seeking a stay of decision to put him to death as punishment for murder.
Despite a judicial finding that the his actions “raise an inference that judicial misconduct has occurred,” Chief Judge Martin will escape punishment. The Sixth Circuit is now merely conducting a “review” of its procedures. Judicial Watch is considering an appeal of this portion of the ruling.
“The Supreme Court now has before it a landmark case which made its way to its steps through judicial misconduct. The Michigan affirmative action case was fixed. It is incumbent upon the Supreme Court to take action to protect its own integrity, for it cannot be a party to this abuse of the judicial process,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.