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Archie C. Epps III, dean of students, was recently appointed to the state supreme court's new Committee on Judicial Responsibility, a nine-member body established to investigate allegations of misconduct or maladministration made against Massachusetts judges.
Epps, who said yesterday he has no legal background, will be one of the three lay members on the committee, which was appointed by the justices of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. The other six committee members are prominent state judges and attorneys.
The state has never had a systematic procedure for handling complaints against judges, Epps said yesterday.
In the past, complaints were handled more informally by a Massachusetts Bar Association committee, Allan D. Rodgers, chairman of the new review committee and director of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, said yesterday.
Like the Bar Association, the new committee does not have the power to take action against offending judges but merely advises the Supreme Judicial Court, Rodgers said.
The committee now exists "mainly to screen complaints and most likely will not recommend specific sanctions on judges" against whom complaints are judged to be valid, Rodgers said.
Epps said he will review the complaints from a "common sense" moral and ethical point of view rather than on strict legal criteria.
Rodgers said the justices were looking for people with a background that showed an ability to evaluate the judicial system and a high standing in the community because it is important that the committee be considered credible by the citizenry.
He added that Epps was a particularly good choice because "the appointing authority was looking for a geographical and racial balance.
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