Regulating Judicial Misconduct and Divining “Good Behavior” for Federal Judges

In recent years, we have witnessed an unprecedented number of instances in which federal judges have been accused of criminal behavior and other serious acts of misconduct. This raises major concerns regarding the scope and enforcement of canons of conduct for members of the judicial branch. It would be presumptuous for anyone to suggest a complete understanding of the notion of “good behavior” for federal judges, or to claim a fully satisfactory prescription for the problem of “judicial misconduct.” That is not my object. In reflecting on these issues, however, I have come to realize that I may not share certain assumptions that appear to underlie recent legislative enactments, scholarly proposals, and judicial initiatives directed at the regulation of judicial conduct.