The Commission normally meets once a month to review all new complaints as well as any other matters within its jurisdiction. If the Commission determines that a matter falls within its jurisdiction, the Commission may investigate to determine whether a proceeding should be instituted on charges of misconduct, failure to perform judicial duties, or disability, upon receiving information regarding the following by complaint or otherwise:
- That a judge may have been guilty of willful misconduct in office or willful and persistent failure to perform his or her judicial duties; or
- That a judge engaged in other conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice or which brings the judicial office into disrepute; or
- That a judge may have a mental or physical disability (including habitual intemperance) which is or is likely to become permanent and which prevents, or seriously interferes with, the proper performance of his or her judicial duties.
Commission investigations may include interviewing witnesses, reviewing court records and documents, and gathering other information and materials as the issues may warrant. After an investigation, the Commission has several options. If the allegations are found to be untrue or cannot be substantiated, the Commission will dismiss the matter without any action against the judge. If after investigation, the Commission determines that improper or questionable conduct did occur, the Commission may resolve the matter through an informal disposition such as a conference with the judge.
In cases involving more serious misconduct, the Commission may issue a public reprimand or public censure, with the judge’s consent. The Commission usually captions these public dispositions as Determinations and Undertakings which describe the judge’s improper conduct, state the findings made by the Commission, and provide the judge’s assurances to refrain from such conduct in the future. Public dispositions are delivered to the judge and made available to the press and the general public.
In the most serious cases, the Commission may determine–following a hearing–to remove a judge from office. In cases in which a judge is no longer capable of performing judicial duties due to a physical or mental disability which is or is likely to become permanent and which seriously interferes with the proper performance of judicial duties, the Commission may determine, following a hearing, to involuntarily retire a judge from office. A judge aggrieved by any order of removal or retirement may seek judicial review by filing a notice of appeal with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
All of the Commission’s disciplinary proceedings and investigations are confidential. Under certain circumstances, however, a decision or action by the Commission may be made public.