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In 1970, the United States Supreme Court issued Chandler v. Judicial Council of the Tenth Circuit in which five Justices determined that the federal courts of appeals possessed an administrative authority to manage the district court judges within an appellate court’s respective circuit. The decision enabled the Tenth Circuit to decide the fitness of a judge to preside over cases without a formal motion from a litigant. Although Congress had enabled the courts of appeals to oversee basic judicial functions (such as temporarily assigning district court judges to overworked districts), Congress did not intend to grant the power to remove the judicial duties of a district court judge; such an act could equate to a judicial impeachment by the Judicial Branch. The Justices who dissented in Chandler, Hugo Black and William O. Douglas, argued that the Court had taken a substantial step in undermining the independence of the Nation’s federal trial judges. Although Congress has since statutorily reduced the impact of Chandler, it remains a flawed influence on the investigation and potential disciplining of the Nation’s federal judges. This Article examines the underlying causes and impact of Chandler, and suggests an argument for curtailing the decision’s impact by limiting it to purely administrative matters.

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St. Mary’s Journal on Legal Malpractice & Ethics





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