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Ryan Piurek
IU Media Relations

Debbie O'Leary
IU School of Law-Bloomington

Last modified: Monday, May 22, 2006

Do judges need policing?

IU legal expert says effort to introduce an “Inspector General” for federal judiciary is misguided

May 22, 2006

EDITORS: Earlier this month, the U.S. House and Senate introduced legislation to create an office of Inspector General for the federal judiciary. House Judiciary Committee Chair James Sensenbrenner proposed the measure last fall, in the context of a speech he delivered at Stanford University on the subject of how to hold judges accountable for their decisions. Charles Geyh, a professor of law and Charles L. Whistler faculty fellow at the Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington, is the author of When Courts and Congress Collide: The Struggle for Control of America's Judicial System (University of Michigan Press, 2006). In the book, Geyh examines the history of attacks on the courts and congressional proposals designed to control the decisions that judges make.

Geyh offers the following critique of the proposed legislation and a solution for those who believe the judiciary has done an inadequate job of policing its own ethics:

"Judges ought to be held accountable for their ethical lapses, but it bears emphasis that the judiciary is a separate and independent branch of government, and not some administrative agency at the beck and call of the political branches. As discussed in my recent book, When Courts & Congress Collide, for well over a century, Congress has respected the judiciary's autonomy by delegating to the judiciary the same authority to administer its own affairs as the other two branches of government possess -- including the authority to discipline fellow judges for misconduct. If there is a problem with the way that the judiciary has administered the disciplinary system, the solution is to explore amendments to that system, and not to create an Inspector General's office equipped with the means to threaten unpopular judges with ethics investigations and budget cuts. Holding judges accountable is one thing; intimidating them is another, and this bill threatens to cross the line that separates the two. Mr. Sensenbrenner now insists that this bill is not intended to hold judges answerable for their decisions, but it creates too great an opportunity for the Inspector General's powers to be misused for that purpose."

To speak with Geyh, contact Ryan Piurek, IU Media Relations, at 812-855-5393 or, or Debbie O'Leary, IU School of Law-Bloomington, at 812-855-2426 or

To learn more about Geyh's new book, go to