The Chronology of Events Leading Up To Judge Martin’s Retirement

January 18th, 2014

TPM has a report concerning the retirement of Judge Boyce M. Martin from the 6th Circuit, titled “Judicial Giant Quietly Retired Under Investigation For Travel Expenses.” Howard Bashman links to the ruling of the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability of the Judicial Conference of the United States, and an earlier ruling from the Judicial Council of the Second Circuit.

In this post I will break down the chronology of events leading up to Judge Martin’s retirement.

  • 7/31/12 – Chief Judge Batchelder of the 6th Circuit “identified a complaint” against Judge Martin concerning “questionable travel reimbursement requests.” The allegations concerned travel reimbursements from January 1, 2008 to August 2, 2012. “These dates bracketed the period of investigation ending with the date of the Chief Justice’s transfer of the proceeding.” In his petition for review, Judge Martin attributes the “travel reimbursement requests at issue” to “internal chambers administrative errors.” Martin further states that “he and his administrative staff had made several administrative mistakes,” although, he adds, “some expenses were contested,” including “reimbursements he maintained were permitted under a letter from the Administrative Office.”
  • 8/2/12 – Chief Justice Roberts transferred the proceeding to the Second Circuit Judicial Council.
  • 9/10/12 – Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs (2nd Circuit) “appointed a special committee to investigate the facts and allegations in the complaint.”
  • 4/23/13 – “The Special committee directed that Judge Martin testify under oath at a hearing on May 30, 2013.”
  • 5/6/13 – “The Special Committee sent Judge Martin a Notice of Potential Areas of Inquiry at the hearing.”
  • 5/14/13- Two weeks before the hearing date, Martin informed President Obama that “he would retire from office on August 16, 2013.” Note that he did not take Senior Status. He retired outright pursuant to 28 U.S.C s. 371(a). (Though, as I understand it, with his tenure of service, he would receive a full pension). In his petition, Martin  “claims that he was advised, through ‘informal contacts’ between his counsel and the special committee’s counsel, that this matter would remain confidential, with no ‘referral’ to the Department of Justice, if he resigned before the scheduled hearing and repaid his travel reimbursements.” The appeal noted, that “Judge Martin’s counsel executed an affidavit, attached to the petition, that describes ‘informal contacts’ with outside counsel for the special committee, in which, he declares, ‘[u]ndersigned counsel was advised that if Judge Martin elected to resign and repay all travel expenses from January 1, 2008 to August 2, 2012, notwithstanding Judge Martin’s position that many of them were authorized, those steps would conclude the matter and it would remain confidential.'”
  • “Shortly thereafter” 5/14/13 –  Judge Martin “agreed to repay the federal government all travel reimbursements he had received from January 1, 2008, to August 2, 2012, approximately $138,500.”Staff at the Administrative Office of the United States Courts were advised by Second Circuit staff to expect Judge Martin’s repayment in three equal installments, to be submitted on June 16, July 16, and August 16, 2013. Only the first two installments have been received. “Judge Martin maintains that he took voluntary and complete corrective action in this matter, and that the complaint proceeding should have been concluded on that basis.”
  • 6/20/13 – Judge Jacobs finds that “because Judge Martin has informed the President that he will retire from office, the Judicial Council has decided that it should “conclude the proceeding because . . . intervening events have made the proceeding unnecessary.'” Following the commentary to a rule, that provides that disclosure of the name of the judge “may be in the public interest–particularly if a judicial officer resigns int he course of an investigation,” the “Judicial Council has determined that it is in the public interest to disclose the name of the subject judge.” The complaint was dismissed, and the order “shall be referred to the Public Integrity of the Department of Justice for such action, if any, as may be appropriate.” This opinion was not published until 1/17/14.
  • 8/16/13 – Judge Martin retires.
  • 8/20/13 – Judge Martin filed a “petition for review” with the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability of the Judicial Conference of the United States. “Judge Martin takes issue with two elements of the order: its statement that it would be referred to the Department of Justice, and its disclosure of Judge Martin’s name.” He seeks “an order preserving the confidentiality of these proceedings.” Further, he alleges that the Council “fails to credit what he describes as his voluntary corrective actions in this matter.”
  • 1/17/14 – The case was heard by a panel of  Judges Anthony J. Scirica, Chair (CA3), Sarah Evans Barker (S.D. In.), Edith Brown Clement (CA5), David M. Ebel (CA10), James E. Gritzner (D.IA). The panel released an opinion finding “no error in the Second Circuit Judicial Council’s disposition of this matter.” “Such disclosure is appropriate in this circumstance because Judge Martin resigned during the course of the special committee’s investigation.” Further, the Panel found that the “Second Circuit Judicial Council’s order contains no finding that ‘corrective action’ had occurred within the meaning of the Act and the JCD Rules.” In other words Judge Martin’s offer to repay the $140,000 (which he only seems to have repaid 2/3 of) would not correct the complaint.
  • The panel also dismissed any reliance given to Martin’s lawyer by the outside council for the special committee. “On review, this claim raises no issue because the statements attributed to outside counsel reflect only advice or suggestions on how Judge Martin might seek to improve his legal position outside the context of the judicial misconduct complaint process, and not a promise to conclude the investigation without referral and to maintain confidentiality. We note, as well, that Judge Martin evidently did not seek to have the alleged assurance reduced to writing even from a person lacking authority under statute or rule to extend it, and the Second Circuit Judicial Council’s order makes no mention of it. Nor is there any assertion that the Second Circuit Chief Judge or Judicial Council agreed to an informal resolution.”
  • Presumably, this matter is still under review by the Department of Justice Public Integrity Section.

For purposes of full disclosure, I clerked for Judge Danny J. Boggs on the 6th Circuit in Louisville from August 2011-August 2012. Judge Boggs and Judge Martin–whose chambers were next door to each other–had a well-documented, public disagreement. I should also note that I did not have knowledge of any of these allegations while clerking, and everything in this post is based on my analysis of the two reported decisions by the courts.