As too many victims in New York know all too well, the process of pursuing malpractice claims can be long, challenging and complicated. In fact, it is not unusual for a medical malpractice verdict to be challenged, resulting in the case being heard in a federal appeals court. That is why it’s so important that the legal process be upheld and that rulings reflect objectivity and accountability on the part of appellate court judges. Questions over conflicts of interest and misconduct are being raised now that there is evidence to suggest that some judges wrongfully preside over cases across the country.
Federal appeals court judges handle a large array of cases, including everything from malpractice to discrimination claims, and they earn considerably more than the average American. It’s for that reason, among others, that federal guidelines dictate that federal judges recuse themselves from any and all cases in which they are financially invested. For instance, a judge is not allowed to preside over a case involving a company that he or she owns stock in.
In order to ensure that federal judges comply with the law regarding conflict of interest, an automated system and database was established to monitor and flag incidents of financial conflict. Beyond that, court officials and judges themselves are charged with preventing conflicts of interest. However, no official form of punishment is established to handle incidents where the judge does not recuse themselves from a case.
In a recent investigation conducted by the Center for Public Integrity it was found that 24 of 255 Appellate Court judges surveyed presided over cases in which they had financial ties. One case in particular involved medical malpractice claims, and the judge in question ruled in favor of the defendant.
Source: Huffington Post, “Federal Judges Admit Conflicts Of Interests, Leaving Litigants Reeling,” Reity O’Brien, Kytja Weir, Chris Young, April 28, 2014