June 15, 2009
Like Ceaser's Wife
The New Jersey Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct has recommended a public admonishment of a part-time municipal judge based on findings that the judge's law firm had made a series of four political contributions in the firm name. The judge had claimed that he was unaware of the contributions and should not be held vicariously liable for the acts of his law partner. The committee concluded that he "cannot avoid responsibility by simply contending that he was not aware of [the contributions]" which were in the form of checks drawn on the firm's account. The committee emphasized the importance of avoiding an appearence of impropriaty by judicial officers. (Mike Frisch)
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It isn’t very often that I find myself defending judges but this recommendation is just ridiculous. The judge did not make the contributions, had no knowledge of the contributions and had even taken measures to prevent such contributions. Yet the Committee held that even though he did nothing wrong, the appearance that he did trumps all. In truth, it is only the partial knowledge of the facts which might lead one to the conclusion that the judge had acted inappropriately. Anyone with the full knowledge of the facts could not reasonably come to that conclusion.
I think this case provides an excellent example of the fallacy of the appearance of impropriety standard.
Posted by: FixedWing | Jun 15, 2009 10:14:58 AM