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The following general definitions apply to these Rules. Cognizable misconduct and disability are defined in Rule 4.
(a) Chief Judge. “Chief judge” means the chief judge of a United States court of appeals, of the United States Court of International Trade, or of the United States Court of Federal Claims.
(b) Circuit Clerk. “Circuit clerk” means a clerk of a United States court of appeals, the clerk of the United States Court of International Trade, the clerk of the United States Court of Federal Claims, or the circuit executive of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
(c) Complaint. A “complaint” is:
(1) a document that, in accordance with Rule 6, is filed by, or on behalf of, any person, including a document filed by an organization; or
(2) information from any source, other than a document described in (c)(1), that gives a chief judge probable cause to believe that a covered judge, as defined in Rule 1(b), has engaged in misconduct or may have a disability, whether or not the information is framed as or is intended to be an allegation of misconduct or disability.
(d) Court of Appeals, District Court, and District Judge. “Court of appeals,” “district court,” and “district judge,” where appropriate, include the United States Court of Federal Claims, the United States Court of International Trade, and the judges thereof.
(e) Judicial Council and Circuit. “Judicial council” and “circuit,” where appropriate, include any courts designated in 28 U.S.C. §363.
(f) Judicial Employee. “Judicial Employee” includes judicial assistants, law clerks, and other court employees, including unpaid staff, such as interns, externs, and other volunteer employees.
(g) Magistrate Judge. “Magistrate judge,” where appropriate, includes a special master appointed by the Court of Federal Claims under 42 U.S.C. §300aa-12(c).
(h) Subject Judge. “Subject judge” means a covered judge, as described in Rule 1(b), who is the subject of a complaint.
Rule 3 is derived and adapted from the Breyer Committee Report and the Illustrative Rules.
Unless otherwise specified or the context otherwise indicates, the term “complaint” is used in these Rules to refer both to complaints identified by a chief judge under Rule 5 and to complaints filed by a complainant under Rule 6.
Under the Act, a “complaint” may be filed by “any person” or “identified” by a chief judge. See 28 U.S.C. §351(a), (b). Under Rule 3(c)(1), a complaint may be submitted by, or on behalf of, any person, including a document filed by an organization. Traditional standing requirements do not apply. Individuals or organizations may file a complaint even if they have not been directly injured or aggrieved.
Generally, the word “complaint” brings to mind the commencement of an adversary proceeding in which the contending parties are left to present the evidence and legal arguments, and judges play the role of an essentially passive arbiter. The Act, however, establishes an administrative, inquisitorial process. For example, even absent a complaint filed by a complainant under Rule 6, chief judges are expected in some circumstances to trigger the process — “identify a complaint,” see 28 U.S.C. §351(b) and Rule 5 — and conduct an investigation without becoming a party. See 28 U.S.C. §352(a); Breyer Committee Report, 239 F.R.D. at 214; Illustrative Rule 2(j). Where the complainant reveals information of misconduct or disability but does not claim it as such, the chief judge is not limited to the “four corners of the complaint” and should proceed under Rule 5 to determine whether identification of a complaint is appropriate. See Breyer Committee Report, 239 F.R.D. at 183–84.
An allegation of misconduct or disability filed under Rule 6 is a “complaint,” and the Rule so provides in subsection (c)(1). However, both the nature of the process and the use of the term “identify” suggest that the word “complaint” covers more than a document formally triggering the process. The process relies on chief judges considering known information and triggering the process when appropriate. “Identifying” a “complaint,” therefore, is best understood as the chief judge’s concluding that information known to the judge constitutes probable cause to believe that misconduct occurred or a disability exists, whether or not the information is framed as, or intended to be, an accusation. This definition is codified in subsection (c)(2).
The remaining subsections of Rule 3 provide technical definitions clarifying the application of the Rules.