The following frequently asked questions pertaining to the Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure and its processes:
Who can file a complaint about a judge?
Any person or group of persons who may be aware of possible misconduct or wrongdoing by a judge may file a complaint. See Filing a Complaint.
Judicial misconduct is any action by a judge which demeans or abuses any person involved in Court proceedings or which otherwise interferes with the proper administration of justice and tends to bring the judge or the Court into disrepute.
In the Courtroom
Within the confines of the courtroom, the following are examples of judicial misconduct that could lead the Commission to discipline a judge:
- Rude, abusive and improper treatment of lawyers, witnesses, jurors, court staff and others.
- The showing of bias toward anyone in the courtroom based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, etc.
- Sleeping or drunkenness or other improper conduct while on the bench.
Outside the Courtroom
Outside the confines of the courtroom, the following are examples of judicial misconduct that could lead the Commission to discipline a judge:
- Criminal behavior.
- Improper use of a judge's authority.
- Allowing family, friends, or others to influence a judge's decisions or to play a role in the way a judge administers justice. This includes reducing charges or fines or transferring cases.
- Misuse of public property, funds or resources.
- Giving or receiving bribes or favors.
- Communicating with only one side in a court case or proceeding unless permitted by law.
- Interfering with the attorney-client relationship.
- Publicly commenting on a pending or expected lawsuit.
- Seeking to influence a pending or expected lawsuit not properly before him or her.
What does the Commission do when a complaint is filed?
Commission members review each complaint they receive. First, they review the complaint to decide if the complaint comes under the Commission's authority. If so, the Commission can order an investigation.
What actions can the Commission take?
The Commission can censure or reprimand a judge publicly, and if warranted, can remove a judge.
Are there any actions that the Commission cannot take?
Yes. The Commission cannot review or consider any decisions of fact or law made by a judge in any case. This can be done only by formal appeal to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. In addition, the Commission cannot take the following actions:
Act on complaints that:
- 1. lack merit,
- 2. are not within its jurisdiction, or which
- 3. even if true, do not allege matters which would constitute grounds for removal.
- Remove a judge from a case and have a new judge appointed to it.
- Give legal advice or represent clients.
- Consider complaints against magistrate judges, lawyers or employees of the Courts.
How can a person file a complaint?
The Commission prefers to receive written complaints. The Commission has a complaint form that can be used for this purpose.
Complaints may also be filed by phone or by talking with the Executive Director of the Commission. Please call (202) 727-1363 for an appointment. Complaints may be made anonymously.
Get more information on the complaint process.
What information must be included in a complaint?
Each complaint must include the name of the judge, all important dates, the name and number of the case, and a detailed description of the action or behavior of the judge prompting the complaint. A person filing a complaint may attach copies of related court documents and transcripts, which support the complaint.
Are complaints confidential?
With limited exceptions the Commission is required by law to maintain the confidentiality of complaints and proceedings.
How long does it take the Commission to investigate a complaint?
Most complaints are resolved within 60 days. The exact amount of time it takes to resolve a complaint depends on the merits of the case and how difficult the issues are.
Should a party involved in a Superior Court case wait to file an appeal until his/her complaint against a Superior Court judge is resolved?
No. A complaint of judicial misconduct is a matter that is totally separate from the case that is before the Court. Anyone who decides that it is appropriate to file an appeal should proceed with the timely filing of the appeal.