The American Bar Association Task Force on Law, Society and the Judiciary, formed in 2022 to develop steps to improve the public’s trust and understanding of the judiciary, issued its final report with specific recommendations Friday during the ABA Annual Meeting in Denver.
The report suggests ways to improve public trust in areas of concern including the judicial confirmation process, judicial ethics, transparency, security and public education. The recommendations are the opinions of the report’s authors and have not been approved by the ABA House of Delegates or Board of Governors and do not represent ABA policy or the opinions of any ABA entity.
“Confidence in our judicial process is fundamental to a working democracy,” ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross said. “The task force took a reasoned approach that resulted in solid recommendations that we hope will be acted upon. The ABA is appreciative of all the hard work the task force members expended to advance civic knowledge and public trust.”
The bipartisan task force was chaired by former ABA President Linda Klein, a shareholder with Baker Donelson in Atlanta. “Addressing the issues involving the public’s perception and confidence in the judiciary today proved to be a formidable undertaking,” Klein said. “Amidst all the divisiveness, political haranguing and misinformation, the task force attempted to cut through the noise and come up with bipartisan and executable suggestions for improving the situation.”
The task force’s recommendations are designed to improve the process for nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court by providing the public with a better way to understand a nominee’s qualifications, experience and approach to deciding cases. It proposes a list of 10 questions that should be asked of every federal judicial nominee during the confirmation process.
The questions deal with topics such as qualities the nominees have observed in judges they would like to emulate, the value of trials, specific actions they would take to promote respect and confidence and deal with unconscious bias, their approach to constitutional interpretation and times they may have been swayed by a legal argument.
The task force also recommends that the Supreme Court adopt and publish a code of conduct and provide greater transparency regarding recusals. It also urges Congress to enact legislation prohibiting judges and their immediate families from receiving any money or gifts other than reimbursement for reasonable out-of-pocket expenses.
Also included in the report is a call for greater transparency and explanations of all decisions, an appreciation of recent legislation providing better security for judges and a call to bolster and improve civics education both in schools and for the general public.