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US Judicial Conference committee drops proposal to limit membership of judges in Federalist Society, ACS
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US Judicial Conference committee drops proposal to limit membership of judges in Federalist Society, ACS

The US Judicial Conference Committee on Codes of Conduct announced Thursday that it has withdrawn proposed ethical guidance aimed at limiting the ability of judges to join groups in the US legal community deemed to be ideologically-oriented.

The proposed guidance was first released in January and opened to comment by current judges. The guidance was aimed at curtailing the membership of judges in two particular groups, the conservative-leaning Federalist Society and the liberal-leaning American Constitution Society, that have increasingly been criticized for politicizing the federal judiciary. After reviewing the comments, the committee decided to withdraw the guidance, stating that it would be left up to individual judges to determine if their membership in the groups impacted their ability to act impartially. Of the three hundred comments received by the committee, at least two hundred came in the form of a letter signed by judges appointed by President Trump, all of whom are members of the Federalist Society, who claimed that the proposed guidance “misunderstood the role of the Federalist Society.”

Non-partisan transparency group Fix the Court issued a strident rebuke of the decision, saying that “judges who maintain formal affiliations with these organizations send signals to the public they’re active players on one of two ideologically motivated teams,” impairing the ability of those judges to act impartially and eroding public confidence in the federal judicial system.