State legislatures — we have a problem

Why all 50 states need to overhaul their judicial oversight agencies

Judges make life-altering decisions every day. Whether through rulings in individual cases or through the establishment of case law, judges intimately impact the life of every American.

As a matter of public safety it is crucial to ensure that judges are making decisions free of corruption, cronyism, and bias.

The main line of defense against these evils are state judicial oversight agencies, which are charged with investigating judicial misconduct — violations of judicial ethics — and disciplining judges accordingly. The other core function served by these agencies is to refer criminal conduct to appropriate authorities such as an attorney general, district attorney, or federal agency.

But these judge watchdogs operate more like national security agencies than agencies responsible for overseeing public officials presiding over public courtrooms conducting the public’s business. The agencies withhold vital information about the conduct of judges, including complaints and private disciplines.

Why is information that would impact judicial elections and provide insight into the performance of judges being withheld from the public — including instances of actual misconduct that are being privately disciplined by secret letters?

To understand why we must take a look at the common beginning.

Continue reading State legislatures — we have a problem

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