Legal Ethics

Federal Judge’s Membership in All-White Country Club Not an Ethics Violation, Panel Says

A federal bankruptcy judge who tried without success to sponsor an African American as a member of his country club did not violate judicial ethics rules by refusing to resign, an appeals court’s judicial council has found.

There are no blacks and no women as full-fledged members in the Belle Meade Country Club, the Associated Press reports. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge George Paine II has tried for 15 years to diversify the membership of the club, located in a wealthy Nashville suburb.

A memorandum by the Judicial Council of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati cites Paine’s “long and sincere efforts” to integrate the club, AP says. The council voted 10-8 last month to dismiss an ethics complaint filed by an anonymous complainant, the story says. Four separate dissents were filed in the case.

One of the dissents, written by Judge Eric Clay of the 6th Circuit, said the club blatantly discriminated and the court’s investigation of the complaint was amateurish, the story says. He cited a section of the conduct code requiring judges to resign from a club if it fails to stop discriminating within two years.

An investigative report found that women could be full members of the club, but they choose instead to join in the “lady member” category because it is less expensive.

The Judicial Council is made up both appeals and trial-level judges in the 6th Circuit. Paine is retiring at the end of the year.

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