Legal Ethics

Panel Says Judge's Membership in Country Club Is Ethics Violation, But Withholds Sanction

A bankruptcy judge violated the ethics code when he failed to resign from a Nashville, Tenn., country club that had no blacks or women as voting members, according to the Federal Judicial Conference’s Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability.

But the panel opted against disciplining Judge George Paine II because he is retiring next month, the Associated Press and Thomson Reuters News & Insight report. The committee is the highest-level ethics body in the judiciary, according to AP. Paine is chief judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

The committee praised Paine for trying to integrate the Belle Meade Country Club, but said he should have resigned long ago. The decision overturns findings by the Judicial Council of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which found in a 10-8 decision that there was no ethics violation partly because of Paine’s “long and sincere efforts” to integrate the club.

The Judicial Conduct Committee’s opinion also cited Paine’s record of public service. He received a Purple Heart while serving in the Army and was a volunteer judge promoting the rule of law in new democracies. “Thus, in our view, Judge Paine is retiring from the judiciary with his reputation for devoted service to his country intact,” the opinion (PDF) said.

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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