United States District Judge John Adams, of the Northern District of Ohio, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Judicial Conference of the United States and the Sixth Circuit Judicial Council. The suit stems from the Sixth Circuit Judicial Council’s insistence that Adams undergo a mental evaluation last month after he exhibited increasingly erratic behavior on the bench.
Judge Adams argues that the order to undergo the evaluation, which is rooted in the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980, is an unconstitutional violation of his liberty interest.
Most attention paid to this case will focus on Judge Adams’s own behavior on and off the bench, as well as larger questions regarding the independence of a life-tenured judiciary. But an equally interesting dimension will be the personal stake of the federal judge hearing the case. That judge will be asked to determine the constitutionality of a statute that covers his own employment, and the breadth of the power of the Judicial Conference that oversees his work. How the ultimate decision is couched, and how much of the judge’s thought process is revealed, will be interesting to follow.