The Judicial Conduct Commission was established in 1975 to receive, investigate, and evaluate complaints against any judge or officer of the judicial system in this state and, when necessary, conduct hearings concerning the discipline, removal or retirement of any judge.
The procedures of the Commission are set forth in the North Dakota Rules of the Judicial Conduct Commission. Significant procedural changes effective August 1, 1997, include evaluation of the complaint and summary dismissal by Disciplinary Counsel, after providing an opportunity for Commission members to request further consideration. An admonition (formerly a private censure) now requires the consent of the judge. Complaints are now filed with Disciplinary Counsel for the Commission, with the Clerk of the Supreme Court relieved of all ex officio administrative duties for the Commission. As before, the Supreme Court must take final action on public censure, removal, suspension, retirement, or other public discipline against a judge.
Complaints against judges in 1999 increased over those filed in 1998. The majority were dismissed as being without merit because complainants frequently believe the Commission has the authority to change a judge's decision or influence trial proceedings in some way.
The following table provides a summary of the nature and the disposition of complaints filed with the Judicial Conduct Commission in 1999.
Judicial Conduct Commission - Summary of 1999
|New Complaint Files Opened in 1999||92|
|General Nature of Complaints:|
Abuse of authority/prestige
Delay court business
Ex parte communications
Failure to disqualify
Failure to follow law/procedure
Failure to perform duties
Improper conduct on bench
Incompetence as judge
No specific allegations
Willful misconduct in office
|Complaint Files Carried Over from 1998||10|
|Total Files Pending Consideration in 1999||102|
|Disposition of Complaints:|
Admonition by Judicial Conduct
Censure by the Supreme Court
|Total 1999 Dispositions||67|
|Complaint Files Pending as of 12/31/99||35|
Of the New Complaints Filed in 1999:
1 was against a person not subject to the North Dakota
Code of Judicial Conduct
76 were against 32 district court judges
3 were against 2 referees
6 were against 6 municipal judges
6 were against supreme court judges
*Five complaints against a district court judge led to a resignation and subsequent suspension as an attorney