Wednesday, August 13, 2003

U.S. House investigates 6th Circuit Appeals Court

By Malia Rulon
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The House Judiciary Committee is investigating the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati after complaints that rules were manipulated to affect a death penalty case and a University of Michigan affirmative action case.

The appellate court judges publicly differed in opinions involving the death penalty case of John W. Byrd and the affirmative action case involving admissions policy at the University of Michigan Law School, both of which reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

Afterward, an ethics complaint was filed against Chief Judge Boyce F. Martin Jr., with one of Martin's colleagues, Judge Alice Batchelder, saying Martin bent the rules in those cases.

The complaint was resolved by a judicial panel on July 31. However, Judicial Watch, a conservative Washington-based group, says the merits of the complaint were not addressed.

The group has asked the House Judiciary Committee to impeach Martin, saying disciplinary action still should be taken.

"We're asking the House to start impeachment proceedings," said Larry Klayman, chairman and general counsel for the group. "That should serve as an example to other judges that there shouldn't be any monkey business on the bench."

House Judiciary spokesman Terry Shawn said he could not provide any additional information on the inquiry because most of the committee's staff was on vacation.

The Senate is not pursuing an investigation.

The rancor among justices of the 6th Circuit isn't new. In the latest spat, justices disagreed over who would be allowed to vote on the decision to uphold the execution postponement of convicted killer Richard Cooey of Akron, Ohio.

Cooey was spared 12 hours before his July 24 execution because U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster said Cooey's lawyer needed more time to study the case. The lawyer had been appointed to the case just three days earlier after the 6th Circuit fired his previous attorneys on June 10.

Judge Danny Boggs complained that his colleagues manipulated the rules to stop the execution.

The 6th Circuit handles appeals from Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan. A spokesman for the court was not available.

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