Congress has created a procedure that permits any person to file a complaint in the courts about the behavior of federal judges-but not about the decisions federal judges make in deciding cases. On the right is a link to the rules that explain what may be complained about, who may be complained about, where to file a complaint, and how the complaint will be processed. See the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act for additional information.
On August 5, 2009, the Tenth Circuit Judicial Council approved additional supplemental misconduct rules, which have been incorporated into the national rules. We suggest you use the complaint form attached to the Rules.
The great majority of complaints in recent years have been dismissed because they simply do not comply with the law. Section 352(b) of Title 28 of the United States Code states that complaints may be dismissed if they allege claims that do not constitute misconduct or claims that lack sufficient evidentiary support to raise a reasonable inference that misconduct has occurred. The most common examples of non-meritorious complaints are
- allegations that the judge is biased because he or she ruled against the complainant;
- similarly, allegations that the judge's ruling is legally or factually wrong and therefore he or she must have another (and improper) motive for ruling against the complainant; and
- unsupported claims of conspiracy grounded on criticism of the judge's rulings.
If you are a litigant in a case and believe the judge made a wrong decision-even a very wrong decision-you may not use this procedure to complain about the decision. Errors of law are correctable by an appeal, not a misconduct claim; an attorney can explain the appeal rights you have as a litigant to seek review of a judicial decision.
You can view opinions issued in misconduct cases here.