Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a top Democratic presidential contender, released a plan on Oct. 7 that she says would help “restore trust” in the judicial system in the United States.
Warren, who has become known for her plans on everything from childcare to social security, cited the case of Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, who was accused of sexual misconduct in Dec. 2017. Female clerks said he inappropriately touched them and showed them pornography in his chambers.
Kozinsky eventually retired as an investigation started, triggering the end of the probe.
“Kozinski continues to collect his taxpayer-funded pension for life. The Kozinski case is just one example of the broader problem of accountability in the federal judiciary,” Warren wrote in the plan.
She said that not enough judges recuse themselves from hearing decisions in which they have conflicts of interest, citing alleged examples of several Supreme Court justices appointed by Republican presidents, including Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. She also said Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James Hill ruled in a number of cases involving companies in which he owned stock and ruled in favor of the company each time.
“Its time to ensure that judges do not hear cases where they have conflicts of interests, strengthen our nations ethics rules for judges, and ensure accountability for judges who violate these rules,” Warren said.
The plan would prohibit judges from making the decision themselves regarding recusal.
Our legal system loses its legitimacy when the American people dont believe that judges will be ethical and fair-minded. I have a plan to strengthen the integrity and impartiality of the federal judiciary. https://t.co/4Zj1qhN7eY
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 7, 2019
“My plan will instead empower the Chief Judges within regional circuits to establish a binding recusal process. It will also require courts to publish its reasons any time judges are disqualified from a case without a recusal motion, including when judges voluntarily recuse or when an automated conflict-checking software disqualifies them,” she said.
Judges would be banned from owning or trading individual stocks, Warren said, to eliminate even the appearance of impropriety.