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When judges make judicial errors of law (those later identified by higher courts on appeal; not to be confused with judicial misconduct), they are not affected beyond possible damage to their public image, personal pride and further career development.

That is, for a judge who is happy where they sit and who doesn't care what people say, none of the consequences of making an error would be anything to worry about. Essentially, such judges will have little or no motivation to avoid making errors.

It is certainly understandable that judges cannot be made responsible for their decisions (otherwise no one would want to be a judge). However, shortage of accountability and motivation as to quality of work creates leeway for abuse of judicial power e.g. making "errors" which are not in fact made by mistake but rather consciously to covertly pursue certain interests that have nothing to do with interests of justice.

Have there been any attempts anywhere to address this particular issue by reforming the Judicature? For example, has any government attempted to enact a system of tracking and analyzing judicial errors to get judges who made them work on them and make conclusions as to how to mitigate making errors in future? Or a system that officially raises question of fitness to the job where more than certain amount of errors has been made?

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  • Who judges the judges themselves?
    – Studoku
    Dec 11 '20 at 10:52
  • Giving in to such motivation, if it amounts to corruption, would be subject to 18 UC 201. It is investigated by the Public Integrity Unit of DOJ. if you are talking about bona fide errors, the decisions and the reasons for their reversals on appeals are public information, so if there is interest in this information, it can be aggregated by 3rd parties.
    – grovkin
    Dec 13 '20 at 10:52
  • @grovkin Errors made for corruption will look bona fide unless the judge stuffs it up and leaves evidence enough to trigger investigation.
    – Greendrake
    Dec 13 '20 at 10:58
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Poland introduced a judicial disciplinary panel and faced opposition from most of the other EU members.

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  • 1
    the opposition is not for the idea but the implementation, that the executive branch does the disciplinary and voids judgements.
    – Trish
    Dec 11 '20 at 11:40
  • 1
    It seems that this panel is intended to address judicial misconduct (and the controversy relates to what qualifies as misconduct), rather than dealing with judges who repeatedly commit errors of law.
    – sjy
    Dec 11 '20 at 23:35
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In the US, judges get and keep their jobs in a number of different ways: this is how matters of judicial quality (when not involving misconduct) are handled, by voting the bum out of office. For example, state Supreme Court justices in Washington are elected by the voters to 6-year terms. Superior and district court justices are elected for 4 years. The governor or county commissioner fills vacancies by appointment (depending on level of the position). There is, of course, the question of whether voters make their decisions based on an evaluation of the technical skill of the judge, but that question exists everywhere. The incumbency advantage for supreme court justices in the US is actually lower than that for senators and representatives, and is amplified in states with non-partisan judicial elections.

Judges may be appointed by the governor with the help of a board: then the judge is likely subject to a retention election again depending on level (at the state level: federal judges are appointed for life). 2 years ago, Michael Corey was voted out of office in Alaska because of a particular plea agreement that he was involved in.

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Have there been any attempts anywhere to address this particular issue by reforming the Judicature?

None that people seem to be aware of.

The judiciary we have today is the result of evolution, not revolution. Though modern democratic societies have transformed the judiciary to appear as service of justice, to some extent judiciary is still regarded having that medieval role of lords/superiors who condescend and rule, not serve. Most people fail to realise that they in fact employ judges (by virtue of being taxpayers) to make justice for them, and, like any employer, they have interest in the quality of the work done: people ought to be able to conduct performance reviews to keep judges striving to work better, as well as fire on the spot those who mess up too much.

There are no known systems/mechanisms for that sort of quality management yet. The closest thing is judicial conduct review panels which only deal with behaviour that is outright not compatible with the role of a judge — as opposed to tracking and managing errors of law.

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