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Update: Detainee Rights & Bankruptcy Courts

posted by Bob Lawless

Last week, I posted about some comments on another blog about the propriety of a federal bankruptcy judge writing to National Public Radio and commenting negatively about the detainee rights bill. Today, the Houston Chronicle ran a story on the topic: "Bankruptcy Judge Denounces U.S. Policy." (The story appeared on the Dow Jones Newswire, so it likely ran in other places as well.) From the article:

The outburst surprised other judges and could subject Clark to disciplinary action, lawyers said. Clark, a judge in San Antonio, Texas, was unavailable to comment Monday.

Chief Judge Edith H. Jones of the 5th Circuit, where Leif is based, said this is the first time in her eight-month tenure she has heard of a bankruptcy judge commenting publicly on a legal issue.

"This is a very novel situation," Jones said in an interview. She said she wasn't sure how the situation would be handled, if at all, but that she planned to look into it.

"I do not want to be saying anything definite at this point," Jones said.

Bankruptcy judges are appointed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the circuit in which they are located and are subject to oversight, discipline, and possibly removal by the judicial council for the circuit. Bankruptcy judges are appointed for 14-year terms, and I believe the judge in this situation was reappointed in 2001. For those who are interested, section 152 of title 28 of the United States Code has all the rules. It's far from clear that anything will come of this, but if a controversy does develop, it could highlight the always delicate relationship between the Article III judiciary and the bankruptcy judiciary.


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