AUGUST 11, 2017
A California judicial commission that’s operated in secrecy for more than five and a half decades is engaged in a legal battle to thwart an audit ordered by state legislators and Judicial Watch has filed a court brief supporting the long overdue probe in the name of transparency. A court hearing has been rescheduled three times and shuffled around to different judges, with the latest scheduled for August 17 before Judge Suzanne Bolanos in San Francisco Superior Court. The case sheds much-needed light on the unbelievable history of a taxpayer-funded agency that’s conducted its business in private—and with no oversight—for 56 years, even though protecting the public is among its key duties. The agency is known as Commission on Judicial Performance (CJP) and it’s charged with enforcing rigorous standards of judicial conduct and disciplining judges in the nation’s largest court system.
California’s court system serves over 37 million people and has more than double the judges (1,882) of the federal judicial system, which has 840. The CJP should serve as a tool to keep the system in check. Instead the commission has dismissed 90% of complaints about judges in the last decade, according to figures published in a California newspaper. Only 3.4% ended in disciplinary action and less than 1% led to public censure. None of the decisions were transparent, the news story reveals, and critics have demanded accountability for CJP for years, asserting that the commission gives “biased and inept judges a pass.”
Continue Reading at Source – Judicial Watch
The Commission on Judicial Performance, established in 1960, is the independent state agency responsible for investigating complaints of judicial misconduct and judicial incapacity and for disciplining judges, pursuant to article VI, section 18 of the California Constitution.
The commission’s mandate is to protect the public, enforce rigorous standards of judicial conduct and maintain public confidence in the integrity and independence of the judicial system. While the majority of California’s judges are committed to maintaining the high standards expected of the judiciary, an effective method of disciplining judges who engage in misconduct is essential to the functioning of our judicial system. Commission proceedings provide a fair and appropriate mechanism to preserve the integrity of the judicial process.
Commission on Judicial Performance
Commission on Judicial Performance is an independent state agency responsible for investigating complaints of judicial misconduct and judicial incapacity and for disciplining state judges (see article VI, section 18 of the California Constitution). The commission has authority to impose certain discipline on former judges and has shared authority with local courts over court commissioners and referees (see article VI, section 18.1 of the California Constitution). The commission does not have authority over temporary judges (also called judges pro tem) or private judges. All commission proceedings are required to be public after formal charges are filed.
Under article VI, section 18(d) of the California Constitution, the commission may:
- Remove a judge or censure a judge or former judge for action that constitutes willful misconduct in office, persistent failure or inability to perform the judge’s duties, habitual intemperance in the use of intoxicants or drugs, or conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute;
- Publicly or privately admonish a judge or former judge found to have engaged in improper action or dereliction of duty; and
- Retire a judge for disability that seriously interferes with the performance of the judge’s duties and is or is likely to become permanent.
The commission also may bar a former judge who has been censured from receiving an assignment, appointment, or reference of work from any California state court. Determinations by the commission to remove, censure, admonish, or retire a judge are subject to discretionary review by the California Supreme Court.
The commission is composed of 11 members: 3 judges appointed by the California Supreme Court, 4 members appointed by the Governor (2 attorneys and 2 nonattorney public members), 2 public members appointed by the Assembly Speaker, and 2 public members appointed by the Senate Rules Committee. Appointments are for four-year terms.
State of California Commission on Judicial Performance – Commission Rules
Article VI, section 18(i) of the Constitution authorizes the commission to make rules for conducting investigations and formal proceedings. The Rules of the Commission on Judicial Performance, rules 101 through 138, were adopted by the commission on October 24, 1996, and took effect December 1, 1996. The rules have been amended periodically thereafter.
State of California Commission on Judicial Performance – Policy Declarations
The Policy Declarations of the Commission on Judicial Performance detail the commission’s internal procedures and existing policies. A Code of Ethics for Commission Members is set forth in Division VI of the policy declarations.