Panel Urges Ethics Rules for Judges

A commission that writes ethics rules for judges has recommended new restrictions, including a $50 limit for some gifts and a requirement that judges disclose free trips every three months.

The American Bar Association panel, which is overhauling the ethics rules for the first time in 15 years, also proposed a new standard for judges to decide whether it is appropriate to take an expenses-paid trip: Trips that would "cast reasonable doubt" on a judge's impartiality would be unacceptable.

Critics wanted more stringent rules.

"The commission could just as well have said, 'Go and enjoy yourself and don't worry about a thing,' " Stephen Gillers, an ethics expert at New York University's School of Law, said. "Rarely will any judge believe that anyone could ever reasonably doubt his or her impartiality after going on one -- or many -- of these trips."

Steven Lubet, who specializes in ethics law at Northwestern University, said the commission's recommendation "is really a commendable effort to deal with a sticky problem."

Lubet cheered a recommendation that judges post information about their free trips on the Internet, where possible. Paid trips would have to be reported quarterly, instead of once a year.

The ABA writes ethics rules for judges that states and federal courts generally adopt.

House Notes Church Bombing

More than four decades after a racially charged church bombing in Birmingham, Ala., Congress officially recognized for the first time the tragedy that helped create momentum for the civil rights movement.

The resolution, sponsored in the House by Rep. Artur Davis, (D-Ala.) honored not only the four girls killed in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing but also the recent effort to bring the killers to justice.

Although such resolutions are used by members of Congress to honor numerous achievements or anniversaries, Rep. John Lewis, (D-Ga.), civil rights pioneer, said the recognition was long overdue. "It is very sad and very painful to sort of relive that day, relive that period," Lewis said. "It is difficult, but I think it was important."

-- From News Services