Critiques of the Judiciary
“Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”First Amendment, U.S. Constitution
Although the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, there is no right of expectation that such redress will be recognized, let alone heeded. On June 3, 2016, in the hope of persuading members of the 114th Congress to amend the judicial recusal statute, the letter below (appropriately addressed) was sent to all those then serving on the House and Senate judiciary committees. Representative Goodlatte (R, VA) was then the current Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. A copy of the letter, complete with enclosures, can be seen here. None of the letters was ever acknowledged.
On March 16, 2016, a letter was sent to Senator John Kennedy (R, LA), imploring him to consider amending the judicial recusal statute (28 U.S.C. § 455) "with language that will compel the recusal of judges from cases that involve the institutions at which they teach." Newly elected to the 115th Congress in 2017, Kennedy is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In 2019, a similar letter was sent to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D, MA) who, as a then presidential candidate, put forth a plan for "Restoring Trust in an Impartial and Ethical Judiciary."
109 Southfield Road, Apt. 51H
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June 3, 2016 The Honorable Bob Goodlatte 2309 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515 Re: Amending the Judicial Recusal Law Dear Representative Goodlatte: I am writing in support of a proposal to amend the existing recusal statute to make it conform to certain canons of the Judicial Conference that guide but do not compel the conduct of judges. The amendment would prevent judges who hold faculty positions at academic institutions from adjudicating lawsuits in which those institutions are a party. Because the canons that forbid this practice are widely ignored, it is necessary to amend the recusal statute to endow the prohibition with the force of law. Public dissatisfaction with conflict of interest issues and the lack of meaningful accountability cannot be ignored and merits the serious attention of lawmakers. The proposed corrective action concerns only one specific aspect of judicial ethics and is an important step toward reform. Enclosed, is a petition with hundreds of citizen signatories from diverse backgrounds who support this amendment. The petition, with many comments, can also be seen at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition//tulanelink. I strongly urge you to sponsor, or at least support this proposal. It will codify the intent of the Judicial Conference and help achieve the goal of equal justice under the law that the public expects and demands. I also respectfully request the opportunity to offer testimony at the next Congressional hearing dealing with judicial accountability Yours truly, s/ Carl Bernofsky Carl Bernofsky Tel: (318) 869-3871 Encl: Canons on Law School Teaching 28 USC Sec. 455, as amended Petition with signatures Proposed Bill to amend Title 28
Past PetitionsAn early attempt to gather names for a petition to amend the judicial recusal law was hindered by the untimely closure of the petition hosting service. However, U.S. House and Senate Judiciary Committee members were subsequently sent copies of similar petitions on April 28, 2006, on March 8, 2007, and on June 30, 2008. Although amending the Judicial Recusal Law would bring the nation one step closer to the goal of "Equal Justice Under Law" a right promised by our Consitution but imperiled by the abuse of judicial discretion our legislators seem disconnected from the concerns of the public and thus far have failed to acknowledge that this is a legitimate issue that is their duty to address. Perhaps this will someday change.
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