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Some medical malpractice verdicts may reflect personal motives

Many times, a malpractice victim's health and entire way of life depends on the outcome of their lawsuit. Not only are medical malpractice suits crucial to upholding patient care standards in the medical community but they serve as an important legal resource for patients and their families. The integrity of the judicial process may be in question for some victims, however, now that there is evidence to suggest that some federal court judges may have a financial stake in the rulings they make.

A wide array of cases are tried through the federal appeals court circuit every year, and appellate court judges are responsible for making nationally significant rulings on everything from discrimination to medical malpractice disputes. And not surprisingly, appellate judges earn considerably more than most Americans as well. To ensure that financial conflicts do not arise in the courtroom, federal laws are in place mandating that federal judges recluse themselves from cases in which they have financial ties.

Federal guidelines addressing concerns over conflicts of interest for judges are so strict, in fact, that an automated database was created to monitor and flag incidents of financial conflict. Ultimately, the duty falls on judges to recluse themselves from any and all cases where they could stand to benefit financially from a particular ruling. But since there is no official punishment for judges that break the law by not separating themselves from cases appropriately, there are concerns over the prevalence of judges presiding over cases involving companies that they own stock in.

Reviewing the cases of 255 Appellate Court judges across the country, the Center for Public Integrity found that there were 24 incidents of judges illegally ruling on cases they had financial ties to.

Source: Huffington Post, “Federal Judges Admit Conflicts Of Interests, Leaving Litigants Reeling,” Reity O’Brien, Kytja Weir, Chris Young, April 28, 2014

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