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Impeaching Judge Real:

Some House Republicans have talked about impeaching wayward judges for quite some time. According to this story, they have finally found a target.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., introduced a resolution to allow his committee to investigate U.S. District Judge Manuel Real, who has served on the federal bench in Los Angeles since 1966. The committee would then consider whether impeachment proceedings are warranted, Sensenbrenner said.
Judge Real was accused of misconduct for his handling of a bnakruptcy case. The allegations were reviewed by the Ninth Circuit Judicial Council, which decided not to discipline him over the strenuous objections of some of the panel members. Judge Kozinski, in particular, wrote a withering dissent. (The opinions are here.)

If the impeachment proceedings proceed, this would not be the first time a federal judge was impeached.

Thirteen federal judges have been impeached over the years, according to the Federal Judicial Center. The first was in 1803, when John Pickering, serving in the District of New Hampshire, was impeached on charges of mental instability and intoxication on the bench.

Most recently, Alcee L. Hastings of the Southern District of Florida was impeached in 1989 on charges of perjury and conspiring to solicit a bribe. The same year, Walter L. Nixon of the Southern District of Mississippi was impeached on perjury charges. Both were convicted by the Senate and removed from office.

Hastings is now a Democratic congressman from Florida.

FlimFlam:
I beleive Alcee Hastings now represents a Fl district in Congress.

I guess that branch has a different standard.
7.20.2006 11:10am
Steve:
I don't know if these allegations rise to the level where impeachment is justified, but folks should read the Ninth Circuit opinions and decide for themselves. I agree with Judge Kozinski that it is positively scandalous that the court did not believe discipline was appropriate. Indeed, had an appropriate sanction been administered, perhaps no one would be talking impeachment today. If you can't get justice one way, you tend to seek it another way.
7.20.2006 12:15pm
bsa:
For those taking the bar exam next week -- the BarBri class action law suit is before Judge Real. Not relevant, just interesting. . .
7.20.2006 12:18pm
Mahlon:
I am unfamiliar with the sanction options available to the Judicial Council. In reading the decisions, I am inclined to agree with Judge Kozinski; there is simply no justifiable reason for the Judge's conduct. For this reason, I would think some sanction is appropriate. Could the Council reprimand him, as in state proceedings?

At the risk of painting with far too broad a brush, I would make the observation that someone who has been on the federal bench for 40 years may have lost his sense of perspective. Those legal niceties referenced in the decision may have been discarded by the Judge in favor of his own whim. Perhaps age has allowed the Judge to consider himself a law unto himself. Dangerous, that.
7.20.2006 12:38pm
William Shamner:
Of course, removal from office isn't the only sentence the Senate can hand down following a conviction. I have only skimmed parts of the opinion, but it certainly seems as though a suspension or at least a formal reprimand may be in order.
7.20.2006 12:55pm
anomdebus:
One point not mentioned in either the post or the comments is the grounds on which the Judicial Council didn't act wasn't on the merits, but was a technical decision. (or so I have been told, I usually fall asleep reading legalese)
7.20.2006 1:47pm
Crunchy Frog:
FlimFlam:

If DC can re-elect Marion Berry after a jail sentence...
7.20.2006 2:16pm
MDJD2B (mail):
Of course, removal from office isn't the only sentence the Senate can hand down following a conviction.

It is my impression that removal from office is the one and only punishment for conviction in an impeachment trial. Am I wrong?

Article I, section 3, clause &:

Clause 7: Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.
7.20.2006 2:53pm
Steve:
Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States

I take this to mean the judgment cannot go FURTHER than removal from office, in the sense that you can't impeach someone and sentence them to jail for it; but presumably the judgment can go not quite as far as removal from office, and consist of a formal censure or other sanction.

As I recall, the Clinton impeachment proceedings were quite robust with legal arguments regarding the constitutionality of censure and other measures. I don't know if a consensus emerged, however.
7.20.2006 3:07pm
Sparky:
In response to Mahlon:

When I started practicing law in L.A., nearly 25 years ago, Judge Real was already notorious.

I suppose as little as 15 years in office could cause a judge to lose his or her sense of perspective. Still, plenty of judges serve 15, 25, and even 40 years while managing to maintain their judicial temperament and demeanor.
7.20.2006 3:32pm
Syd (mail):
"Steve:
Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States

"I take this to mean the judgment cannot go FURTHER than removal from office, in the sense that you can't impeach someone and sentence them to jail for it; but presumably the judgment can go not quite as far as removal from office, and consist of a formal censure or other sanction."

It goes a bit farther than that: not only can they remove officials from office, they can forbid them from holding any office in the future. I'm not entirely sure whether this applies to getting elected to Congress, since Congress has a separate method of determining membership.
7.20.2006 4:07pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
I agree with Judge Kozinski, at least on the facts he presented in his dissenting opinion, that the Judicial Council should have acted in this matter on the merits, and not refused it on some technical ground. I do think impeach is going too far, though.

Judge Real is one of a handful of federal judges in California whose behavior and comments have raised some questions among the bar about his judicial temperment. However, I have not appeared before him, so I cannot verify any of the stories or speak with firsthand knowledge about his judicial demeanor.

I did hear, from someone who interviewed with him for a clerkship, that he makes his law clerks live in San Pedro (where he lives) and be available to drive him to and from work and to run errands for him. That struck me as rather "imperial" but maybe it is common for federal judges to use their law clerks as chaffeurs.

I also know, when I researched judicial bias in connection with a recusal motion 10 years ago, that he appeared to be more frequently challenged for judicial bias than most other judges in California. He was, I recall, in the top 3 or 4 judges whose names appeared in (usually unpublished) 9th Circuit opinions written in connection with appeals from denial of recusal motions filed by litigants on the grounds of judicial bias. The other living judge whose name appeared with some frequency in such motions is Judge Andrew Hauk, who has also supposedly said some "colorful" things that have attracted negative media attention.

Judge Real's nickname among lawyers in Los Angeles used to be "Mad dog" Manny. He was the US Attorney in LA before he was appointed to the bench, and strikes many lawyers as intelligent, if unpredictable.
7.20.2006 6:25pm
OR (mail) (www):
I thought this part of Judge Kozinski's dissent, at 13825, was interesting:

"Throughout these lengthy proceedings, the judge has offered nothing at all to justify his actions -- not a case, not a statute, not a bankruptcy treatise, not a law review article, not even a blawg."
7.20.2006 8:58pm
Sara:
It was around 1969. Judge Real's son was in my 7th grade class, so we went to his dad's courtroom for a field trip. Among other things, he showed us some counterfeit money. When it came time to leave, one bill was missing! He threatened us nice catholic school kids with strip searches and arrest :)
7.21.2006 2:26am
Ira B. Matetsky (mail):
When an impeached official is convicted by the Senate, he or she is automatically removed from office. The precedents hold that disqualification from holding another public office in the future is also a permissible sanction, but must be voted separately. In prior judicial impeachments in which the subject judges were convicted and removed, the Senate has not voted disqualification (presumably thinking the issue of whether this individual should serve again was unlikely to arise, although I believe in one case disqualification was specifically voted on and rejected). In the Clinton impeachment resolution approved by the House (which probably had the Hastings precedent in mind), the House specifically asked the Senate to impose disqualification as well as removal.
7.21.2006 11:16am
Tyrone Slothrop (mail) (www):

As one of the other commentators suggested, Judge Real has quite a reputation among California lawyers. In my limited experience with him, his conduct would prompt the accusation that he was biased in favor of large corporations against the little guy, although I don't think that was what was going on. Which is to say that there isn't necessarily an ideological angle to this, notwithstanding the post's reference to House Republicans. Perhaps some judges just ought to be impeached for being bad judges.
7.21.2006 12:01pm
Curious:
They can use the slogan "Get Real!" for the impeachment efforts.
7.21.2006 12:26pm
Vorn (mail):
I like the idea of impeaching judges for ideological reasons. I think impeachment should be used against originalists.
7.22.2006 2:21am