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The constitution says they serve on good behaviour. Article II says that judges may be impeached, along with the President and Vice President. But in principle, would it also be acceptable for a law to declare that a removal in some other technocratic way based on cause of misconduct and non-good behaviour be acceptable, such as the conference of judges set up under Chief Justice Taft, and a hearing before a discipline committee under them, if this process was established by law?

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    What to you project the result to be of publishing in the city newspaper "Judge X is unfit to hear any cases; everybody receiving Judge X to hear case should file motion to recuse"? (Note that the failure of that motion opens an appeal path even if none would have existed before.)
    – Joshua
    Oct 16, 2023 at 15:00

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Article III judges are appointed for life, "subject only to removal by impeachment" (United States ex rel. Toth v. Quarles, 350 U.S. 11, 16 (1955)).

This is a consequence of the "good behaviour" clause of Article III.

The "good Behaviour" Clause guarantees that Art. III judges shall enjoy life tenure, subject only to removal by impeachment.

(Northern Pipeline Construction Co. v. Marathon Pipe Line Co. et al., 458 U.S. 50, 59 (1981)).

For discussion of the problems this brings, and the potential for impeachment in the case of incapacity, see Francis Shen, "Aging Judges" (2020) Ohio State Law Journal. Shen discussed 28 U.S.C. Chapter 16 as a pathway for the judicial conference to recommend impeachment after an allegation that a judge is "unable to discharge all the duties of office by reason of mental or physical disability."

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  • That sounds odd. A judge could have something like a severe stroke and be incapable of judging but if impeachment and conviction is the only way to remove them then they are stuck, as the causes of impeachment are treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors. Oct 16, 2023 at 3:34
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    @R-Obsessive That is an excellent point. One would expect a responsible judge who is unable to perform their duties to resign as their last dutiful act. Some of them seem to want to hang in there, and a higher court in the federal judiciary has to suspend them by administrative means.
    – Wastrel
    Oct 16, 2023 at 14:44
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    @R-obsessive a lot of these laws were written with the general understanding/assumption that the people assigned to these positions would be honorable professionals who regarded their duty to the system and the country it serves as more important than their own position. We're currently experiencing several of the failure states of this assumption of good faith behaviour.
    – Shadur
    Oct 17, 2023 at 12:26
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In the United States Federal Judiciary, is impeachment and conviction by the Senate the only means to remove a federal judge?

Basically. A federal judge can also be removed on account of their death, or voluntary retirement or resignation, and can be suspended during periods when the judge is not physically capable of carrying out the duties of the office.

would it also be acceptable for a law to declare that a removal in some other technocratic way based on cause of misconduct and non-good behaviour be acceptable, such as the conference of judges set up under Chief Justice Taft, and a hearing before a discipline committee under them, if this process was established by law?

No.

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    Nor would it be desirable.
    – fectin
    Oct 16, 2023 at 12:13

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