The Judicial Conduct Commission was established in 1975 to receive, investigate, and evaluate complaints against any judges 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.
The number of complaints against judges in 2001 was the same as those filed in 2000, although the total number of dispositions decreased. 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 table, which follows, includes a summary of the nature and the disposition of complaints filed with the Judicial Conduct Commission in 2001.
|General Nature of Complaints:|
|Abuse of authority/prestige||1|
|Conflict of interest||1|
|Delay court business||2|
|Intemperance, alcohol, drugs||1|
|Complaint Files Carried Over from 2000||13|
|Total Files Pending Consideration in 2001||61|
|Disposition of Complaints:|
|Admonition by the Judicial Conduct Commission||2|
|Censure by the Supreme Court||0|
|Total 2001 Dispositions||48|
|Complaint Files Pending as of 12/31/01||13|
Of the new complaints filed in 2001:
37 were against 23 District Court Judges
4 were against 4 Municipal Court Judges
1 was against a Referee
5 were against 5 Supreme Court Justices
1 was against a Tribal Judge