Arthur Hellman Quoted on Probe of Federal Judge Arrested on Domestic Abuse Allegations

Sources say an evidentiary hearing has been scheduled to consider a charge of judicial misconduct against an Alabama federal judge who was arrested on domestic abuse allegations. The Daily Report, the American Law Media newspaper in Atlanta, Ga., on Jan. 16 talked to Pitt Law Professor Arthur D. Hellman, an expert on federal judicial ethics, about the significance of this development. The article is only available for subscribers. 

Hellman suggested the hearing may have been called because the investigator hired by the “special committee” encountered conflicting stories from witnesses. In that situation, Hellman said, the judges would be “derelict” to allow the investigator to make credibility determinations himself. “If there are any questions at all about credibility, the special committee members will want to hear and question the witnesses themselves,” Hellman added.

Commentary to the rules on federal judicial discipline proceedings says that a special committee's power to subpoena a judge for a hearing is “subject to the normal testimonial privileges.” Hellman said he thought such privileges would include the Fifth Amendment, adding that the special committee would not have the authority to immunize a judge from prosecution.

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