- The Washington Times - Friday, June 6, 2003


Federal judges usually keep their disputes private, but an extraordinary he-said, she-said brouhaha between two appellate judges has blown open the closed chamber doors.

The chief judge of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says he stands wrongly accused by a colleague of bending rules in two high-profile cases. And what’s worse, Judge Boyce F. Martin Jr. said, is that his colleague made her findings public without giving him a chance to respond.

“I’m royally shafted, to put it mildly,” Judge Martin said yesterday in a telephone interview. “It’s like poor Sammy Sosa. I never had a corked bat before and I don’t think I had one here.”

Each year hundreds of federal judges are accused of misconduct. Judges police themselves and the complaints usually are settled quietly. Most are dismissed immediately as frivolous, but a handful get a closer look.

The claims at the Cincinnati-based appeals court involve especially divisive cases involving affirmative action and the death penalty. The court has been split along political party lines.

Judge Martin is a liberal judge who was appointed by President Carter. Judge Alice Batchelder, who conducted the ethics review, is a conservative who was appointed by the first President Bush.

The review, prompted by a complaint from watchdog group Judicial Watch, found Judge Martin named himself to a three-judge panel that was to hear the affirmative-action case even though court rules specify that assignments be made at random.

Judge Martin also delayed for five months a request to have the full appeals court rehear the case, ensuring the exclusion of two conservative judges who were planning to retire, according to the review.

Judge Martin disputes both findings, which Judicial Watch made public this week.

After the two judges went on senior status, which meant they could not participate in the full court appeal, the 6th Circuit took over from the special panel and ultimately upheld affirmative action in college-admissions policies. Judge Martin wrote the 5-4 decision. Judge Batchelder was on the minority side in the case, now pending at the Supreme Court.

Judge Martin said he was included in the three-judge panel only because he needed a substitute judge for one who could not sit. Following his usual practice, he said, he and the court clerk drew names from a pot on his desk. His was the name drawn, he said.

Judge Martin said it was the clerk, not the judge, who delayed consideration of the request for a full court review. The delay was the result of a separate dispute between the parties in the case, and the 6th Circuit judges were not involved, he said.

“I don’t feel that either morally, ethically or legally I’ve ever done anything wrong as it relates to either of these cases, and I haven’t treated either of these cases any differently than ordinary, run-of-the-mill cases,” Judge Martin said.

He said Judge Batchelder never mentioned the complaint to him or allowed him to respond. They’re not on speaking terms, he said, and she will only communicate to him in writing.

An assistant to Judge Batchelder said the judge was not taking calls yesterday.

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