"Does it work?"
To which we would add:
"And for whom?"
For the public users of court services? For Judges themselves? For the Judicial Branch of government? For Lawyers who use the courts? Here are some reflections on these "QA" issues that suggest quality protection is the M.O. of the Committee; rather than public quality assurance:
1. Can any honest probe of one judge's performance avoid tarnishing (or bringing to question) the performance of other judges? Part of the power of the judiciary comes from its unassailable, sacrosanct role image as honest, incorruptible, dispassionate, objective, fair, impartial, knowledgeable about the law and above the fray of whatever contention appears in their courts. A successful consumer complaint "dings" this vulnerable image and suggests that the product, as a whole may not be as advertised. The inevitable questions follow. Is this a "one-off" situation, or are there other product defects?
2. A successful complaint about a judge would be highly likely to attract the attention of other dissatisfied "consumers of court services", who have had the same judge, and complaints might start to come "out of the woodwork". Once there is a precedent of allowing exposure of and sanction for bad judicial behavior, the precedent can be applied to other similar cases.
3. Apart from "just one bad judge", public complainants may start to examine similar behaviors in other judges. Transparent documentation of new complaints might embolden members of the bar to get into the act and use their legal skills to zero in even more incisively.
4. An open "hunting season" on judges along with better transparency about complaints and their handling would destroy forever the "sacrosanct" judicial image, an important marketing device which maintains public confidence (and lawyerly confidence) in judges.
So how do legitimate, worrisome complaints get handled by "the powers that be"? Dismissal can be "a many splendored thing." The 100% solution.
1. Dismissed. Because the legal complaint was not not well formulated, failed to specify the exact judicial canons or to cite the exact law that may have been infringed upon. In other words, you may have "something", but "WE" set the rules of the game, and "WE" enforce them.
2. Dismissed. For lawyers complaining, there is the above issue, but there are also various potential accusations of "disrespect" of the judge.
- Too candid in criticism = disrespect.
- Too forceful = disrespect.
- Too persevering = disrespect.
- Too zealous in building a case = disrespect.
3. Dismissed. But working behind the scenes in the "murk" of the Judicial Branch, the offending judge is subsequently "transferred" (for no particular reason), say, from Portland to Ft Kent. All the potatoes you can eat, judge, and you're just a stone's throw from Canada.
4. Dismissed. But the judge "retires", and moves out of state or goes back to being a lawyer.
5. Dismissed. But the behind the scenes maneuvers at the Judicial; Branch lead to someone(?) making an unpublicized decision not to request judicial re-appointment when reappointment time comes up. Now you see him/her; now you don't!
It all bears a striking similarity to another totalitarian institution, and the now, long passed, Catholic Churches opaque handling of dysfunctional priests: retire, transfer, send away for therapy, move out of the country or to another jurisdiction. Judges appear to be the "new priests"? So far the Boston Globe's Spotlight hasn't assigned its star investigative reporters to this situation.
Do you still want to file a complaint?
In the past 30 years there has not been one successful complaint against a judge - that we are ware of.