Speed Reads

'excessively' forgiving

Investigation reveals thousands of U.S. judges accused of misconduct have mostly gotten off easy

Judges at the local and state level in the United States have faced thousands of allegations of misconduct with few lasting consequences, a Reuters investigation reveals.

Reuters reviewed 1,509 cases between 2008 and 2019 in which judges either resigned, retired, or were publicly disciplined following accusations of misconduct, plus an additional 3,613 cases between 2008 and 2018 in which states disciplined judges but kept their identities and details of their offenses hidden from the public. After reviewing the cases, Reuters determined that nine out of every 10 judges was eventually allowed to return to the bench.

The incidents include judges making racist statements, lying to state officials, forcing defendants to remain in jail without a lawyer, drunk driving, sending sexually inappropriate photos to clerks, and disrupting juror deliberations. In Indiana last year, three judges got drunk and started a brawl at a White Castle resulting in two of the judges getting shot. Indiana's Supreme Court said the incident "discredited the entire Indiana judiciary," but they were allowed to return to the bench after a suspension.

Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University, said the findings highlight an "excessively" forgiving judicial disciplinary system, arguing the public "would be appalled at some of the lenient treatment judges get" for substantial progression. Read more about the investigation at Reuters.