Judicial Ethics

On the subject of judicial ethics: A group of legal ethics professors and five law school ethics centers (including Fordham’s Stein Center) filed an amicus brief in a pending U.S. Supreme Court case, United States v. Davila.  In that case, a federal magistrate judge encouraged a criminal defendant to plead guilty and cooperate with the government, thereby violating Fed. R. Crim. P. 11, principles of judicial ethics and standards set in past judicial decisions.  The federal court of appeals overturned the defendant’s guilty plea even though the defendant never objected to the magistrate judge’s exhortation.  The ethicists’ brief argues that, to promote judicial integrity as well as the defendant’s fair process rights, the court of appeals acted within its supervisory authority in vacating the guilty plea without an inquiry into whether the particular defendant’s decision to plead guilty was influenced by the magistrate judge’s coercive conduct.

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