US judges approve new ethics rules

US judges approve new ethics rules

[JURIST] The US Judicial Conference [official website] has published a revised Code of Conduct [text, PDF] for federal judges in the country. The revision, published Tuesday, updates the code from its last revision [text] in 1992, and the conference said the changes were intended to simplify and clarify the code by condensing its sections and using plain language. The revised version also newly-defines the "appearance of impropriety," the standard by which judges should recuse themselves from hearing a case, and broadens the definition of what constitutes inappropriate influence on a judge. Changes to the code will take effect on July 1. The conference also asked Congress to create 63 new federal judgeships.

The US Judicial Conference is made up of [membership roster, PDF] senior circuit and district court judges. It operates under a mandate [28 USC § 331] to monitor federal courts and promulgate rules providing for their fair and efficient operation. What constitutes the appearance of impropriety or bias by a judge is something that has recently gained much attention in both federal and state courts. Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court heard arguments [argument transcript, PDF; JURIST report] in a case where they will determine whether there is a constitutional basis for the Court to set an "appearance of bias" standard for state courts.