Judicial misconduct refers to indecent and unbecoming behaviors or actions by judges within and outside the judicial system that may impede or affect the conduct of business and administration of the judicial system. Williams (2007) defines judicial misconduct as any form of action or behavior by a judge that is considered unethical and unacceptable or that results into an abuse of the impartiality, veracity and integrity of judges. Judicial misconducts are usually considered crimes.
Forms of Judicial Misconduct
The most common forms of judicial misconduct include taking bribes, accepting gifts or personal favors, reprehensible campaigning and improper discussion of cases with third parties outside the judicial system. Unreasonable hostility to members of the judicial system is also considered a judicial misconduct. Actions of judges are also considered a misconduct if they result into malfeasance and abuse the office. Judicial misconduct may also result from using judicial offices, powers and authority by judges to obtain special treatments and favors for friends and relatives. Maltreatment of litigants and attorneys by judges is also considered a judicial misconduct. Moreover, violation of specific, mandatory standards, codes of conduct and principles of the judicial system is also considered a judicial misconduct. According to Mason (2010), judicial misconduct usually includes exceeding acceptable jurisdiction, abuse of discretion, biasness, lack of incompetence, violation of the due process and dereliction of duty by judges.
Ways of Removing Judges from Office
Judges who are incompetent or ill-behaved can be removed from office in a number ways. Some of these ways include impeachment, legislative address, recall election and removal by a judicial investigative committee or judicial conduct commission. Impeachment usually involves a voting by the House of Representatives who decide whether or not a judge should be impeached. Impeachment usually occurs when a judge is accused of gross misconduct, malfeasance of office, high crimes, criminal conspiracy, poor administration and consistent intemperance.
A legislative address usually involves using the bill of address that permits legislators to vote for removal of a judge from a judicial office. However, the legislative vote must be approved by the governor. On the other hand, recall election involves voting for removal of judges who have committed serious crimes by the House of Representatives. For a recall election to be successful, a specified number of votes must be reached.
Last but not least, a judicial investigative committee or a judicial conduct commission may also be created by the state or federal government or relevant statutes to investigate complaints of judicial misconduct and remove a judge from office. Members of such committees and commissions are usually judges and lawyers.
An example of a case where a judge was convicted of a crime is Nixon vs. United States in which former United States federal judge Walter L. Nixon was convicted of perjury, making false statements or taking a false oath. Walter Nixon was impeached by the House of Representatives and then removed from office by the Senate in late 1989.