Legal Ethics

Amended Ruling Reprimands Bankruptcy Judge for Membership in Country Club

In a decision issued last month, a judicial conduct panel criticized a soon-to-be-retired chief bankruptcy judge for failing to resign from a Tennessee country club, but refused to sanction the judge for the ethics violation.

This month, the Federal Judicial Conference’s Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability changed its collective mind. In a revised opinion (PDF) filed Dec. 1, the panel changed one line of its previous decision and publicly reprimanded U.S. Bankruptcy Judge George Paine II, according to Thomson Reuters News & Insight.

In the original ruling, the committee praised Paine for trying to integrate the Belle Meade Country Club, but said he should have resigned long ago. The club has no blacks or women as voting members. The panel added the public reprimand after the anonymous person who complained about Paine’s club membership asked it to reconsider, Reuters says.

The wire service interviewed University of Pittsburgh law professor Arthur Hellman, who said the revised opinion is a “surprising development.”

“I think they were obliged, having significantly changed the bottom line, to explain why they did it, and why they imposed that sanction,” he said.

How Appealing also noted the revised opinion.

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