Corruption in Our Courts:
What It Looks Like and Where It Is Hidden
Recent surveys and events indicate that judicial corruption could be a significant problem in the United States. This Note builds an economic model of bribery to better understand the incentives behind this pernicious phenomenon. It then compiles a data set of discovered incidents of judicial bribery in the United States to test the effectiveness of our antijudicial-corruption institutions. This analysis suggests that our institutions are particularly ineffective at preventing and uncovering judicial bribery in civil disputes and traffic hearings.
“If experience demands a presumption that a judge will seize every opportunity presented to him in the course of his official conduct to line his pockets, no canon of ethics or statute regarding disqualification can save our judicial system.”
—Justice William Rehnquist
A judiciary without honesty has little chance of executing its moral and constitutional duties, no matter how many rules of ethics exist. This is especially true in the United States, where the judiciary is afforded wide discretion. Facts and law require interpretation; justice and equity require judgment. Every decision to grant a motion, to follow precedent, to interpret a statute or facts, to set a sentence or damages—every decision left up to the discretion of a judge—is a potential opportunity for corruption. Eliminating all opportunities for personal gain would require nothing less than the destruction of the independent and adaptable judicial system we know. And so we count on honest judges to navigate our ship of justice through these dangerous waters. Read More>>>
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