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. Procedures 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) requires the consent of the judge. Complaints are now filed with Disciplinary Counsel for the Commission. The Supreme Court must take final action on public censure, removal, suspension, retirement, or other public discipline against a judge.
Complaints against judges in 2000 decreased compared to those filed in 1999, although the total number of dispositions increased. The plurality 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, which follows, includes a summary of the nature and the disposition of complaints filed with the Judicial Conduct Commission in 2000.
|New Complaints Opened in 2000||48|
|General Nature of Complaints: Abuse of authority/prestige|
Ex parte communications
Failure to disqualify
Failure to follow law/procedure
Failure to perform duties
Incompetence as judge
No specific allegations
Practicing law/legal advice
Reputation of judicial office
Willful misconduct in office
|Complaint Files Carried Over from 1999||35|
|Total Files Pending Consideration in 2000||83|
|Disposition of Complaints:|
Admonition by the Judicial Conduct
Censure by the Supreme Court
|Total 2000 Dispositions||75|
|Complaint Files Pending as of 12/31/00||8|
Of the new complaints filed in 2000:
39 were against 22 District Court Judges
2 were against 2 Municipal Court Judges
6 were against 3 Referees
1 was against a Supreme Court Judge