Section 1. Policy and Purpose.
This rule provides an informal, confidential, non-confrontational, and educational method for addressing complaints or concerns about judicial officers and employees of the state judicial system. Through this procedure, the Informal Complaint Panel offers an avenue for constructively influencing judicial and employee conduct and resolving issues before they rise to the level of a formal grievance process or result in initiation of a disciplinary proceeding.
Section 2. Informal Complaint Panel - Membership.
The Informal Complaint Panel consists of three judges and one lay person appointed by the Chief Justice after consultation with the Supreme Court, and one lawyer member appointed by the Chief Justice after consultation with the President of the State Bar Association of North Dakota. Panel members are appointed for three year terms. Of the members initially appointed and as determined by lot at the first meeting, one-third of the members will be appointed for one year, one third for two years, and one-third for three years. Each member is eligible for reappointment and serves until the member's successor is appointed. A member may not serve more than three consecutive terms. A former member who served three consecutive terms is eligible for reappointment after a six-year break in service. The Chief Justice appoints the panel chair. Expenses incurred by members in the performance of panel duties are reimbursed by the Supreme Court.
Section 3. Informal Procedure - Confidentiality.
A. The Panel shall provide a means of informally addressing complaints concerning the conduct of judicial officers and employees of the state judicial system. Complaints are limited to conduct occurring in connection with judicial proceedings or in the judicial employment environment.
B. Complaints eligible for consideration include those involving temperament; bias related to race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status; or other inappropriate behavior.
C. Complaints that a judicial officer committed legal error or complaints against a judicial officer in a pending case are not eligible for consideration. If the panel chair determines that a complaint involves a pending case, the chair shall notify the complainant that the complaint must be addressed through a motion for disqualification.
D. Complaints will be accepted only if the identities of the complainant and the person who is the subject of the complaint are known to the Panel. The complainant's identity may be disclosed to the person who is the subject of the complaint only if the complainant consents to the disclosure.
E. Complaints may be submitted to individual Panel members or may be submitted to the Panel Chair for consideration by the full Panel. If a complaint is submitted to an individual Panel member, the member, after consultation with the Panel Chair, may pursue such informal methods of addressing the complaint as are considered appropriate under the circumstances. An individual Panel member, after receiving a complaint, may refer the complaint to the full Panel for consideration.
F. If a complaint involves a Panel member, that Panel member may not participate in any review or consideration of the complaint.
G. Before the complaint is fully reviewed, the complainant must be informed of the procedures available for initiating a grievance or disciplinary proceeding. Nothing in this procedure prevents or discourages the complainant from taking such action. However, initiating an informal complaint under this rule does not constitute initiation of a complaint under the Rules of the Judicial Conduct Commission, or notice of a grievance under North Dakota Court System Policy 142.
H. The Panel, or an individual Panel member, may contact the appropriate Presiding Judge or another judge or judicial system employee for purposes of assisting in contacting the person who is the subject of the complaint and addressing the matter. The complainant's identity must be kept confidential unless the complainant agrees those assisting in addressing the complaint will be informed of the complainant's identity.
I. Except as provided in these procedures, the identity of the complainant and the person who is the subject of the complaint must be kept confidential. The Panel shall not retain any records regarding complaints filed with the Panel, and the fact a complaint was filed may not be used in any subsequent disciplinary action or litigation, but the Panel may collect non-identifying data on types of complaints or underlying anecdotes that might be useful in educational programs.
Section 4. Application of Other Provisions.
The requirements of N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 8.3 and N.D. Code Jud. Conduct Canon 3D do not apply to participants in this procedure or to information obtained through this procedure.
Section 5. Report.
The Panel shall submit a report, which includes information on the number and nature of complaints, and the methods used to address the complaints, to the Supreme Court by October 1 of each year.
Section 6. Effective Date.
This rule is amended effective September 1, 2018.
SOURCE: Adopted effective March 1, 2001; amended effective November 12, 2003; amended effective April 1, 2006 (Supreme Court No. 20060059); amended effective September 1, 2018(Supreme Court No. 20180306).