Crackdown on unethical judges: West Virginia the latest state to take action
Last month, West Virginia lawmakers took the extraordinary action of impeaching all four state Supreme Court justices for spending issues, including a suspended justice facing a 23-count federal indictment.
The state House of Delegates voted to impeach Justice Allen Loughry on eight articles, setting the stage for a trial in the state Senate.
According to NBC News, “Beth Walker became the final justice to be impeached when an article was approved stating all four justices abused their authority. It said they failed to control office expenses, including more than $1 million in renovations to their individual offices, and not maintaining policies over matters such as working lunches and the use of state vehicles and office computers at home.
“Walker had dodged impeachment earlier Monday night when lawmakers decided to overlook her $131,000 in spending on office renovations. A short time later, another article was withdrawn against Chief Justice Margaret Workman, who spent $111,000 in renovations.”
Justice Robin Davis was impeached for $500,000 in office renovations, according to news reports, and lawmakers approved articles against Loughry for spending $363,000 in renovations to his office; having a $42,000 antique desk and computers, all owned by the state, at his home; lying to the House Finance Committee about taking home the desk and a $32,000 suede leather couch and for his personal use of state vehicles.
“Loughry, Workman and Davis also were impeached for their roles in allowing senior status judges to be paid higher than allowed wages. Lawmakers say the overpayments violated state law and stopped when they were challenged by the Internal Revenue Service,” CBS noted.
In 2013, the Los Angeles Times reported on judicial abuse in Las Vegas.
“Whether they want to play or do business, all who come to Las Vegas, from Southern California or elsewhere across the nation, expect a fair shake, especially from its courts. Las Vegas is a town, however, where some judges, operating in a new $185-million Clark County courthouse two blocksfrom casinos, wedding chapels and strip clubs, routinely rule in cases involving friends, former clients and business associates, even in cases touching people to whom they owe money,” the Times reported.
In 2014, the FBI created a fake defendant to catch a corrupt judge. As the New York Post reported, FBI agents invented a defendant—complete with a staged arrest and court appearances.
Court documents from Judge Joseph Waters Jr.’s guilty plea to federal mail and wire fraud charges include details of the bogus arrest of a man named David Khoury for illegally carrying an unloaded Glock .40-caliber pistol during a 2012 traffic stop,the Philidelphia Inquirer reported.
The American Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) notes that the two most common types of judicial corruption are political interference and bribery. Political interference is when politicians or staff from the legislative or executive branch meddle in judicial affairs or collude with judges in fraudulent schemes.
The second most common form of judicial corruption is bribery. Judges or other court officials might accept bribes to exercise their influence over a case in a way that benefits the briber. For example, a judge might delay or accelerate cases, accept or deny appeals, or simply rule in a particular way in exchange for kickbacks, according to ACFE.
The Yale Law journal published a reporton judicial corruption that suggests it could be a significant problem in the United States. The analysis suggests that our institutions are particularly ineffective at preventing and uncovering judicial bribery in civil disputes and traffic hearings.
Although there have been studies, arrests and impeachments, experts agree that judicial corruption remains a critical problem in the United States.