Responding to Unfair Criticism of Judges

Preserving the quality and independence of the judiciary has been a hallmark of ABOTA’s efforts over the years. ABOTA works to maintain and support public confidence in the judiciary by providing timely assistance to members of the bench in responding to potentially damaging publicity.

ABOTA has established guidelines for each chapter of ABOTA to use to provide responses to misinformation or unwarranted criticism of an individual judge or the judiciary. These guidelines — Protocol for Responding to Unfair Criticism of Judges — have been successfully used by chapters for years. Many ask why the judiciary even needs this type of support. The answer is addressed in a number of different ways.

  1. It is unethical for a judge to answer criticism of her or his actions appearing in the news media regarding pending or impending matters. This policy has been developed to ensure the dignity of the administration of justice, to prevent interference with pending litigation, and to reaffirm the commitment to an independent judiciary – a judiciary dedicated to decision making based on facts and law as presented.
  2. The effectiveness of our justice system depends in large measure on public confidence.
  3. The reporting of inaccurate or unjust criticism of judges, courts, or our system of justice by the news media erodes public confidence and weakens the administration of justice.
  4. It is vital that non-litigants as well as litigants know and believe that the courts, their procedures, and their decisions are fair and impartial.

Therefore, cooperation of attorneys is necessary to respond accurately, quickly, and fairly to unwarranted criticism of judges and courts.

ABOTA members deal with errors and misinformation in reporting criticism of judges, courts, or the administration of justice. Members make themselves available to the news media to provide information concerning judicial activities, court process, or other information about the judiciary. Members have the power to improve the public image of the legal system, lawyers, and judges by working with the media to foster a better understanding of the judiciary and its players.

ABOTA has worked to improve judicial independence in a number of other ways as well. ABOTA has urged the restoration of compensation levels to their past equivalence, in terms of real income, for justices and judges of the United States courts. ABOTA has recommended changing the procedure for adjusting future compensation. ABOTA recommended that the U.S. Congress increase the funding of the judicial system, as well as increase salaries paid to those who serve as judges.

ABOTA’s goodwill responses often transform difficult situations into positive experiences.

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