It is an unfortunate fact that many Supreme Court Judges have proven themselves to be somewhat lacking in ethical conduct, creating a conflict between their office as guardians of justice and fairness and their own interests to promote their own agendas for greater power and wealth. (Cheberenchick, 2013). Although many of the misconduct cases that have recently seen the light are personal in nature, some are also driven by financial and political pressures, as in the case of Alabama. In this state, judges are required to raise large sums of money to compete in judicial campaigns. Significantly, political pressure is also particularly prevalent during judicial campaigns to overrule jury decisions and upholding capital punishment. One might therefore question the entire system for its disproportionate focus on pleasing those with wealth and power rather than upholding justice for those who are most desperately in need. (Cheberenchick, 2013). Clearly, reforms are required for the judicial system in the United States, not only to deter corruption among Supreme Court judges, but also to promote the justice system according to its original intention. Indeed, the original intention of the justice system was surely to promote justice among the population of the United States. Today, such justice appears to be subject to corruption and the self-serving nature of some Supreme Court judges who wield power (Parlina, 2013).
First, one of the major problems related to corruption is the fact that most judges are elected. This creates a drive within the judiciary to compete within election campaigns. Much like politics, the speeches and promises made during campaign drives have little resemblance to the actual service provided during a judiciary term. Hence, it may be better to use a committee for the appointment of a judge, especially in the Supreme Court. According to Marnie Browne (n.d.), for example, election campaigns tend to generate large sums of donations from interested political or financial parties. These tend to disproportionately promote the interests of the wealthy. In other words, when cases are pending in which wealthy parties have a significant interest, it is more than likely that the interests of these parties will be promoted in favor of actual justice, whether social or otherwise.
A committee appointment of judges, on the other hand, would create a lower probability of corruption (Justice at Stake, n.d.). The key is to create a committee without any vested political or financial interest in the justice system. In other words, such a committee is to appoint judges on the basis of greater objectivity than otherwise. This could also create a greater focus on accountability than the election system. Indeed, appointed judges seek out justice rather than the favor of those who sought to support their election campaigns. Elections, as has been proven by centuries of political campaigning, tend to favor only those among the people who can best support those in power, either by money or by numbers. Those in the minority in either case suffer as a result. Committee appointments tend to be far more focused on a generally agreed upon basis of fairness (Browne, n.d.).
If the committee is truly composed of a team of non-partial entities, it should not be affected by graft. Graft tends to affect those who want to rise to power on the strength of power related to politics or money rather than of the tenets of justice. Ideally then, a committee appointed to elect a judge should be focused on justice rather than on creating a basis of wealth for a select few. Although a committee would surely be vulnerable to graft issues, it should be less vulnerable than individual judges and their campaign managers. Indeed, the more integrated and diverse the committee, the less likely it is to be influenced by graft concerns.
As seen, there are various ways in which Supreme Court judges can circumvent the law, the most prominent of which is taking bribes from politically and financially powerful persons. These bribes provide a basis of corruption for judges. Hence, the temptation to violate the constitution is high, such as the case involving Judge Sharon Keller, who refused to remain open for an emergency appeal that might have saved the life of a death row inmate. Although the Judge has come under public and legal scrutiny, little appears to have been done regarding the violation of rights for the accused Michael Richard, who was executed later that day.
Furthermore, it is also apparent that little is being done to mitigate the situation. According to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (n.d.), there is a Congress created procedure that allows any person to file a complaint against a federal judge who is suspected of misconduct under the “Judicial Misconduct Rules.” However, according to the publication, most of the complaints delivered in this way in recent years have been dismissed for their failure to “follow the law about such complaints.”
Following such laws, however, is no simple matter. The document provided for the complaints is so lengthy and complicated that only expensive legal services would be able to make any headway in these complaints. The policy is therefore neither user friendly nor particularly effective in discouraging misconduct that still remains apparently rampant among officials within the Supreme Court.
In other words, the policies in place are hardly sufficient to address judicial misconduct. In fact, they appear to favour those in power while not facilitating any complaint procedures for those at the victim level. The language level of the document is so complicated that lengthy commentary is required to explain its details, for example. Furthermore, this implies that the complaint procedure is not open to everybody. In this way, not only money or power, but language itself also empowers those in power to remain where they are while the victims of the justice system reamin where they are, as victims, even when represented by competent legal counsel, as in the case of Michael Richard.
Furthermore, the intricate legal language in the documentation that supposedly provides for procedures against judicial misconduct excludes the general population from making “legally valid” complaints against such violations. This in itself violates the rights of the general population to opposed judicial violations. Hence, there is a very clear divide between what the general population is able to do in terms of protest against judicial violations and the actual empowerment occurring at this level.
Hence, some reform is necessary when judicial violations against the Constitution occur. First, a clearly delineated document should be made available to the public regarding the specific procedures to use against judges who are perceived to violate the Constitution. Since this is a very serious accusation, some protections should also be available to judges. Free legal representatives should be provided for members of the public who want to lay complaints. Such legal representatives should be able to explain the validity (or lack thereof) of the complaint before such a complaint is taken to court.
There should also be a provision regarding the number of complaints against a certain judge or certain actions. A greater number of complaints should be regarded with greater seriousness than a single complaint regarding a single decision. In no case, however, should any complaint be taken lightly or dismissed summarily.
Currently, the case appears to be that, whenever the conduct of a Supreme Court judge is called into question, the seriousness of the case calls into question the position of the public levelling the complaint rather than the judge in violation of the law. This is the fundamental position that needs to change. Just like politicians, Supreme Court judges are to be regarded as not above the law, but as harbingers of the law who are subject to the same judicial requirements as the public they serve. Each complaint should be considered with the same gravity as a similar complaint against a politician, business owner, or member of the public.
At its basis, the main change I would prefer to see in the justice system is greater equality. No person should be considered more important than another when it comes to obeying the law. The current policies fall far short of addressing judicial misconduct, since justices of the court, and especially the Supreme Court, are considered to be more important than the law they uphold (U.S. Code Chapter 11). Something must be done to improve these.
One possible action is to create a policy document that is accessible to all members of the public. Second, affordable or free of charge legal counsel should be provided to all members of the public, even if only to explain in better detail the requirements of levelling an accusation against a Supreme Court judge. Each case should be regarded with sufficient gravity to launch a thorough investigation before any judge or person in power is acquitted (Cheberenchick, 2013).
Creating such a system would create greater public trust in a system that was originally created to protect the public from major and corporate crimes. Currently,…