Ohio federal judge sues Judicial Conference over order to undergo mental health evaluation

United States District Judge John Adams, of the Northern District of Ohio, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Judicial Conference of the United States and the Sixth Circuit Judicial Council. The suit stems from the Sixth Circuit Judicial Council’s insistence that Adams undergo a mental evaluation last month after he exhibited increasingly erratic behavior on the bench.

Judge Adams argues that the order to undergo the evaluation, which is rooted in the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980, is an unconstitutional violation of his liberty interest.

Most attention paid to this case will focus on Judge Adams’s own behavior on and off the bench, as well as larger questions regarding the independence of a life-tenured judiciary. But an equally interesting dimension will be the personal stake of the federal judge hearing the case. That judge will be asked to determine the constitutionality of a statute that covers his own employment, and the breadth of the power of the Judicial Conference that oversees his work. How the ultimate decision is couched, and how much of the judge’s thought process is revealed, will be interesting to follow.

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Judge Posner, unvarnished (as usual)

At Above the Law, David Lat has a terrific, wide-ranging interview with Judge Richard Posner, who abruptly retired from the Seventh Circuit bench two weeks ago. He discusses a number of interesting topics, from pro se litigants to cameras in the courtroom to bagging groceries.

Senate Judiciary Committee advances four federal judicial nominees

The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday advanced the nominations of four individuals for the federal bench.  They are Ralph Erickson (8th Circuit), Donald Coggins Jr (D.S.C.), Dabney Friedreich (D.D.C.), and Steven Schwartz (Court of Federal Claims).  Only Mr. Schwartz proved to be a controversial vote; he was passed 11-9.

Justice Ginsburg on Congressional “nonsense,” marriage, opera, and Justice Scalia

The ABA Journal reports on a wide-ranging public discussion between Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Judge Ann Claire Williams in Chicago.  Worth a full read.

Ontario judge who wore MAGA hat into his courtroom receives 30-day suspension without pay; did the Ontario Judicial Council overreact?

The Ontario Judicial Council has issued its disciplinary opinion regarding Justice Bernd Zabel, the Hamilton-based trial judge who wore a red “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” baseball hat into his courtroom on the day after the U.S. presidential election last November. The hat, of course, is associated with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. It is uncontested that Judge Zabel wore the hat into his courtroom, stated “Just in celebration of a historic night in the United States,” and then removed the hat, placing it on the dais with the MAGA phrase visible to all in the courtroom. He presided over about ten matters before taking a recess, at which point he removed the hat from the courtroom. The hat did not return after the recess.

Unsurprisingly, Judge Zabel’s behavior spurred sharp reactions, including 81 formal complaints from a variety of public interest organizations, lawyers, and law professors. (I informally critiqued his actions on this blog as well; see link above.)  Interestingly, however, none of the formal complaints came from any lawyers or parties before Judge Zabel that day. Indeed, lawyers in the courtroom that day, and those who have appeared before Judge Zabel in the past, defended his overall judgment and integrity even as they classified the events of that morning to be a professional mistake.

Judge Zabel, too, quickly realized his error. After the Globe and Mail ran a story about the incident two days later, the judge made a public apology in his courtroom.  He explained that he was trying to make a humorous gesture, that in retrospect it was entirely inappropriate, and that he sincerely regretted the decision. Later, Judge Zabel sought out private lessons on judicial ethics from another member of the bench.

The judge’s contrition notwithstanding, the Hearing Panel of the Ontario Judicial Council on Monday suspended Judge Zabel for 30 days without pay. This was the most severe sanction they could issue, short of removing the judge from office. In my view, it was too harsh a sanction, supported by surprisingly slipshod reasoning.  More below.

Continue reading “Ontario judge who wore MAGA hat into his courtroom receives 30-day suspension without pay; did the Ontario Judicial Council overreact?”

New wave of federal judicial nominees announced

President Trump has announced a new wave of federal judicial nominees, mostly to vacant positions on the Circuit Courts of Appeal.  Notably, they include Gregory Katsas, the current deputy White House Counsel, who was nominated for a seat on the D.C. Circuit.

 

Israeli Supreme Court gets new president

Justice Esther Hayut was unanimously elected to the position by the country’s Judicial Appointments Committee.  The vote appears to have been pretty pro forma, in that the position traditionally goes to the longest serving justice.  But the unanimity of voting members also masks some tension between Israel’s right-leaning and centrist parties over the composition of the Supreme Court.  The Times of Israel has a fuller explanation.