Recent cases

  • The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for failing to disqualify himself from a case a family member filed against the school board, engaging in an ex parte communication with a party’s representative, and making public statements at a school board meeting about the case. Yellowhorse, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct November 14, 2016).
  • Pursuant to an agreement, the Arkansas Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission sent a letter of informal adjustment to a judge for her delayed ruling in 1 matter. McGowan, Letter of informal adjustment (Arkansas Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission November 18, 2016).
  • Based on the commissioner’s resignation and agreement never to serve in judicial office, the California Commission on Judicial Performance dismissed a notice of formal proceedings filed against a former commissioner; the notice had alleged that the commissioner had threatened to take actions that exceeded his authority; made statements that suggested prejudgment or bias and gave litigants the impression that they could not receive a fair trial before a neutral arbiter in his department; in 2 cases in which a misdemeanor was charged, adjudicated the case without obtaining a stipulation from the defendant permitting him to do so and accepted a plea of guilty or no contest without informing the defendant that the charge was a misdemeanor and without informing the defendant of, or receiving the defendant’s explicit waiver of, the right to counsel, the privilege against compulsory self-incrimination, the right to trial by jury, and the right to confrontation; in 2 cases, accepted pleas of guilty without informing the defendants of the charges; failed to properly arraign the defendants in 4 cases; during his traffic calendar, had a practice of telling defendants that he did not want to hear any arguments about the amount of the fine, including their ability to pay, and refused to exercise his discretion to depart from the uniform bail and penalty schedule in sentencing; had a pattern of violating his duty to be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants and their witnesses; if the uniform bail and penalty schedule called for a fine of $1,000 or more, had a practice of denying community service and requiring the defendant to pay the fine, regardless of the defendant’s ability to pay; if a defendant had posted bail to have a trial, had a practice of denying community service and requiring the defendant to pay the fine, regardless of the defendant’s ability to pay; after an earthquake was felt in his courtroom, made comments of a sexual nature to court staff; and referred to his courtroom clerk, who is Caucasian, as an “honorary black girl” and as “white girl” in the courtroom and in her presence. Inquiry Concerning Culver, Stipulated disposition of pend formal proceedings (California Commission on Judicial Performance December 20, 2016).
  • Approving the Judicial Qualifications Commission’s findings and recommendations, the Florida Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge for sending an ex parte e-mail to the public defenders office; failing to seek a recusal or transfer when his division was effectively frozen during an appeal of his refusal to recuse based on the ex parte e-mail; and making impertinent and belittling remarks in open court about the appeal; the Court also ordered that the judge send a letter of apology, continue judicial mentoring for 3 years, complete a mental health program, and pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings. Inquiry re Contini (Florida Supreme Court December 1, 2016).
  • Based on the decision of the Disciplinary Review Board, which was based on stipulated facts, the New Jersey Supreme Court suspended the law license of a former judge who had presented 4 tickets he and family members had received to other judges for favorable treatment. In the Matter of Sison, Order (New Jersey Supreme Court November 17, 2016).
  • Adopting the sanction recommended by the Board on Professional Conduct, the Ohio Supreme Court suspended an unsuccessful judicial candidate from the practice of law for 1 year for 2 campaign advertisements that contained patently false statements about his opponent; the Court stayed the final 6 months of the suspension on the conditions that he commit no further misconduct and attend a 6-hour CLE course regarding judicial campaigns. Disciplinary Counsel v. Tamburrino (Ohio Supreme Court December 7, 2016).
  • The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline removed a former judge based on his no-contest plea to 2 state charges of official oppression for taking advantage of his official capacity by demanding that an adult female model lingerie at her residence in exchange for vacating her fines and costs and an unwanted sexual contact with another woman. In re Joy, Opinion (October 7, 2016), Order (November 29, 2016).
  • The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline removed a judge from office for engaging in repeated ex parte communications with another judge about 3 cases and assuring the other judge that she would take the actions he wanted in those cases. In re Segal, Opinion and order (September 23, 2016), Opinion and order (Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline December 16, 2016).
  • The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline removed a judge from office for knowingly accepting the offer of another judge to have ex parte contacts to influence a third judge’s decision in a case involving the respondent-judge’s sons. In re Roca, Opinion and order (October 20, 2016), Opinion and order (Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline December 16, 2016).

    Based on an agreement for discipline by consent, the South Carolina Supreme Court suspended a judge for 6 months without pay for Facebook posts about a case, political matters, and a fund-raiser for a local church. In the Matter of Johns (South Carolina Supreme Court November 16, 2016).

Throwback Thursday

5 years ago this month:

  • The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for incorrectly stating that she lacked jurisdiction to consider a punitive damages claim, preventing the complainant from asking leading questions of an adverse witness, and providing inaccurate and misleading information in her response to the Commission. Parker, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct December 20, 2011).
  • With the judge’s agreement, the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission made public the fact but not the content of its private reprimand of the judge for driving under the influence. In re Davis, Report of Disposition (Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission December 15, 2011).
  • Accepting a statement of circumstances and conditional agreement for discipline, the Indiana Supreme Court suspended a judge for 60 days without pay for (1) without legal authority, referring traffic infraction litigants to a traffic school program and dismissing their cases upon their completion of the program without any request from the prosecutor and (2) statements that coerced a traffic litigant into pleading guilty. In the Matter of Harkin, 958 N.E.2d 788 (Indiana 2011).
  • Based on a report from the Committee on Judicial Responsibility and Disability, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court publicly reprimanded a judge for a pattern of unacceptable delays in managing and resolving at least 5 cases. In the Matter of Holmes, 32 A.3d 1011 (Maine 2011).
  • A 3-member panel appointed to hear a formal complaint filed by the Minnesota Judicial Standards Board publicly reprimanded a former judge for (1) sending confidential information from a sealed court file to a state senator and (2) creating an appearance of impropriety by leaving his clerk as the sole candidate for his seat when he withdrew from the race for re-election to his office after the deadline for other candidates had closed. Inquiry Concerning Armstrong, Findings and Recommendation (Panel appointed by Minnesota Supreme Court October 31, 2011).
  • Based on an agreed statement of facts and proposed recommendation, the Mississippi Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge and fined her $500 for ordering a mother jailed for criminal contempt without affording her due process for failing to obtain mental health treatment for her daughter. Commission on Judicial Performance v. Darby, 75 So. 3d 1037 (Mississippi 2011).
  • Based on an agreed statement of facts and proposed recommendation, the Mississippi Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge and fined him $1,000 for telling a defendant “if you’re convicted, I’m gonna get you,” discourteously addressing a bail bondsman and 2 lawyers, and wrongly imposing contempt sanctions against the bondsman and lawyers. Commission on Judicial Performance v. Smith, 78 So. 3d 889 (Mississippi 2011).
  • Adopting the findings and recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, which the judge accepted, the New Jersey Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a former judge who repeatedly and unnecessarily referred to her judicial office when attempting to convince police officers to arrest a state investigator who had entered her home to serve a subpoena on her husband and, when they refused, belittled their work and competence. In the Matter of Muller, Order (New Jersey Supreme Court December 12, 2011).
  • Pursuant to an agreement, the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary publicly reprimanded a judge for twice publicly criticizing other judges’ decisions to lower bonds he had set. Letter to Bales (Tennessee Court of the Judiciary December 6, 2011).
  • Pursuant to an agreement, the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary publicly reprimanded a judge for handcuffing a father to a son as a punishment in a case. Letter to Zachary (Tennessee Court of the Judiciary December 27, 2011).
  • The U.S. Judicial Conference Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability publicly reprimanded a judge for holding membership in a country club that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race and sex. In re Complaint of Judicial Misconduct, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 26454  (U.S. Judicial Conference Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability 2011).

Widespread public attention

In a press release, the California Commission on Judicial Performance announced that it is closing its investigation of Judge Aaron Persky for the 6-month jail sentence (plus 3 years’ probation and lifetime sex offender registration) he imposed on a Stanford University student-athlete, Brock Turner, who had been convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster outside a college party.  As the Commission notes, the sentence “was widely criticized as being too lenient, and triggered significant public outrage and media coverage,” and the Commission received thousands of complaints.

Stating “[m]any complainants asked the commission to ensure that the sentencing in this case matches both the crime and the jury’s verdict and to be sure that justice is done,” the Commission emphasized that it “is not a reviewing court — it has no power to reverse judicial decisions or to direct any court to do so — irrespective of whether the commission agrees or disagrees with a judge’s decision.  It is not the role of the commission to discipline judges for judicial decisions unless bad faith, bias, abuse of authority, disregard for fundamental rights, intentional disregard of the law, or any purpose other than the faithful discharge of judicial duty is established by clear and convincing evidence.”

The Commission concluded “that there is not clear and convincing evidence of bias, abuse of authority, or other basis to conclude that Judge Persky engaged in judicial misconduct warranting discipline.”  It explained:

First, the sentence was within the parameters set by law and was therefore within the judge’s discretion.  Second, the judge performed a multi-factor balancing assessment prescribed by law that took into account both the victim and the defendant.  Third, the judge’s sentence was consistent with the recommendation in the probation report, the purpose of which is to fairly and completely evaluate various factors and provide the judge with a recommended sentence.  Fourth, comparison to other cases handled by Judge Persky that were publicly identified does not support a finding of bias.  The judge did not preside over the plea or sentencing in one of the cases.  In each of the four other cases, Judge Persky’s sentencing decision was either the result of a negotiated agreement between the prosecution and the defense, aligned with the recommendation of the probation department, or both.  Fifth, the judge’s contacts with Stanford University [he had been a student-athlete there] are insufficient to require disclosure or disqualification.

The statement describes the Commission’s analysis, including a discussion of the judge’s statements during sentencing, a comparison to cases in which other judges have been reversed or disciplined for making statements that reflect bias, and an evaluation of the judge’s sentencing decisions in other cases.

Usually, the Commission’s decision to close an investigation would be confidential pursuant to the state constitution, but the constitution creates an exception that allows the Commission to issue an explanatory statement and the Commission used that exception “[b]ecause Judge Persky’s sentencing of Turner and the complaints to the commission received widespread public attention . . . .”  Although complainants and many members of the public may still disagree with the Commission’s decision not to charge Judge Persky, the release of the statement means that at least they can understand the basis for the decision and their disagreement will be an informed one.

Throwback Thursday

10 year ago this month:

  • Pursuant to an agreement, the Arizona Supreme Court publicly censured a part-time judge who, during a hearing to set a trial date, failed to provide the defendant with an attorney after the defendant made 3 requests to continue the matter so his public defender could be present, failed to comply with the rules of criminal procedure, and raised the defendant’s bond without a valid basis. In the Matter of Colglazier, Order (Arizona Supreme Court December 29, 2006).
  • Pursuant to an agreement, the Arizona Supreme Court publicly censured a judge for (1) failing to following the procedures for a summary criminal contempt proceeding, denying a couple an opportunity to make a phone call or speak with an attorney prior to being taken into custody and (2) imposing strict sanctions on litigants, witnesses, and attorneys for minor disruptions in court proceedings. In the Matter of Malka, Order (Arizona Supreme Court December 29, 2006).
  • Adopting the masters’ factual findings and legal conclusions, the California Commission on Judicial Performance removed a judge from office for (1) signing 4 campaign disclosure statements under penalty of perjury that falsely listed herself as the source of a $20,000 contribution to her campaign, (2) 2 convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol, and (3) improperly questioning a prosecutor concerning his reasons for exercising his unqualified right to disqualify her from a judicial proceeding. Inquiry Concerning Hall, Decision and Order (California Commission on Judicial Performance December 10, 2006).
  • Approving a stipulation, the California Commission on Judicial Performance censured a former judge and barred her from receiving an assignment, appointment, or reference of work from any California state court for, in 42 instances in 5 different criminal cases, berating, scolding, and belittling attorneys, litigants, witnesses, and a prospective juror, and, in 2 cases, improperly suggesting that the defendant’s testimony was untruthful. Inquiry Concerning Shaw, Decision and Order (California Commission on Judicial Performance December 21, 2006).
  • The Florida Supreme Court removed a judge from office for (1) the unjustified and preventable arrest and incarceration of 11 citizens who were late to his courtroom because they had been misdirected to the wrong courtroom; (2) declining to release a defendant pursuant to the clear mandate of a rule of criminal procedure; and (3) being rude, abrupt, and abusive in his treatment of a criminal defendant. Inquiry Concerning Sloop, 946 So. 2d 1046 (Florida 2006).
  • Accepting a conditional agreement for discipline, the Indiana Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge for failing to execute an appropriate order or provide proper instruction to his court reporter for the release of a probationer following a court of appeals decision reversing his revocation of probation, which resulted in the probationer unnecessarily spending over 1 year incarcerated and 1 year on supervised parole. In the Matter of Newman, 858 N.E.2d 632 (Indiana 2006).
  • Accepting the recommendation of the Judiciary Commission based on stipulated facts and to which the judge had consented, the Louisiana Supreme Court publicly censured a non-lawyer justice of the peace who had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by performing services in 16 cases that may only be undertaken by a person licensed to practice law. In re Crawford, 943 So.2d 331 (Louisiana 2006).
  • The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline ordered a judge to write a letter of apology to the county bar association for representing in a campaign brochure that the bar association “overwhelmingly endorsed” him even though the bar association does not endorse judicial candidates. In the Matter of Higgins, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Decision and Order (Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline December 4, 2006).
  • The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct removed a non-lawyer judge who had (1) participated in the collection of signatures on designating petitions for candidates for local political office and in the filing of the petitions with the county board of elections; (2) refused to answer questions during the Commission investigation; (3) failed to effectuate a defendant’s right to counsel, attempted to elicit incriminating statements from the defendant, engaged in unauthorized ex parte communications, and conveyed the impression that he was biased against the defendant; (4) expressed bias and hostility toward the county district attorney’s office and attempted to intimidate an assistant district attorney and the district attorney from making a complaint about him to the Commission; and (5) while presiding over various criminal cases, engaged in unauthorized ex parte communications and made statements or otherwise engaged in conduct indicating that his impartiality might reasonably be questioned. In the Matter of Greaney, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 18, 2006).
  • Based on an agreed statement of facts and joint recommendation, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a non-lawyer judge who held a defendant in contempt without giving the defendant a warning or an opportunity to desist or make a statement on his own behalf and failing to issue an order stating the facts constituting the offense and held the defendant’s attorney in contempt for attempting to make a record without a warning or issuing an order stating the facts constituting the offense. In the Matter of Van Slyke, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 18, 2006).
  • Pursuant to a stipulation and agreement, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge who engaged in a routine pattern and practice of failing to properly advise criminal defendants of their constitutional rights at arraignment and probation review hearings and to ensure that guilty pleas were validly entered. In the Matter of Helbling, Stipulation, Agreement, and Order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 1, 2006).

Judges marching and tweeting

In a letter opinion, the Massachusetts Committee on Judicial Ethics advised that a judge should not participate in the Women’s March on Washington scheduled for January 21, 2017.  Massachusetts Letter Opinion 2016-10.  The opinion states:

The Women’s March is scheduled to take place the day after the Presidential Inauguration.  Though the organizers emphasize that the Women’s March is intended to be inclusive and welcoming to everyone who supports women’s rights, the political overtones are unmistakable.  The organizers reference the “rhetoric of the past election cycle” that has “insulted, demonized, and threatened . . . immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, [and] survivors of sexual assault.”  A primary purpose of the Women’s March is to “send a bold message to [the] new administration on their first day in office.”

We understand that you wish to participate in the Women’s March to stand up against misogyny, racism, and other biases and bigotries that threaten the rule of law.  The public and the media are, however, likely to focus on the timing of the event and the organizers’ announced desire to “send a message” to the new President on his first day in office.  We believe that a reasonable person would perceive the Women’s March as a political protest, and the Code therefore prohibits your participation.

* * *
The Massachusetts Committee has also issued a letter opinion on judges using Twitter, which is the first comprehensive advisory opinion to focus on that social media platform.  Massachusetts Advisory Opinion 2016-9.  The opinion was in response to an inquiry from a judge who has a Twitter account with a handle that includes “judge” followed by his surname and who includes a photo of himself wearing a judicial robe in numerous tweets.  His posts, the accounts he follows, and the identities of his followers can be viewed by the public at large.

The committee emphasized:  “As is also true with other forms of social media, each judge who uses Twitter must err on the side of caution and be aware that posts a judge-user considers neutral may nonetheless lead a reasonable person to question the judge’s impartiality.”

The Committee is of the opinion that, when a judge is posting publicly as a judge, the judge must be exceptionally cautious.  The reason is that the public may perceive the judge’s communications to have the imprimatur of the courts.  In general, a public, unrestricted Twitter account of an identified judge may be used only for informational and educational purposes.  If the judge so desires, the account also may reflect who the judge is as a person, as well as a judge, so long that the judge is careful not to implicitly or explicitly convey the judge’s opinions on pending or impending cases, political matters, or controversial or contested issues that may come before the courts.  In addition, as to each piece of information revealed by the judge’s Twitter account (whether it is a tweet, a retweet, a “like,” the identity of an account that the judge follows, or the identity of an account that follows the judge) the judge must consider whether it would cause a reasonable person to question the judge’s impartiality.

Noting that many of the judge’s Twitter posts fell into certain categories, the committee gave advice for each category.

  • The committee stated that tweets that “share upcoming and past bar events and other news of general interest to members of the Bar (e.g. the establishment of new specialty courts, the election of bar leaders, the nomination of judges) . . . are consistent with the Code.”
  • With respect to the judge’s tweets advising “trial lawyers on trial practice (e.g., preparing clients to testify, delivering closing arguments, conducting cross-examination),” the opinion stated that “purely educational posts are consistent with the Code, but posts that a reasonable person may regard as demonstrating personal bias or improper comment on a pending case are not.” The committee advised that the judge “must make certain that the posts do not reflect [his] reaction, whether complimentary or critical, to the in-court behavior of any readily identifiable person,” noting that avoiding “a close temporal proximity” between the behavior and the related tweet “will help ensure that such posts are perceived to be purely educational.”  The committee also noted that the judge’s posts must “offer only practice tips and not legal advice.”
  • The judge posts tweets on selected cases decided by other courts, including the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, often on decisions concerning racial discrimination and/or police misconduct, or both, including issues the judge confronts on a regular basis, such as assessing the credibility of police officers. The committee stated that “[r]eporting court decisions, even on selective topics, is consistent with the Code, but only if the reports do not compromise or appear to compromise [the judge’s] impartiality.”  To avoid conduct that a reasonable person may regard as demonstrating partiality, the committee advised, the judge’s “Tweets or retweets must be from official or neutral sources such as court websites or libraries.  [The judge] must not retweet or link to case reports from persons or organizations with legal opinions that are clearly on one side of contested and highly-charged legal issues.  Reports even by ‘mainstream media’ should be avoided, as such reports may contain commentary or reaction favoring one point of view.”
  • The committee cautioned the judge about “posts intended to reveal the existence of racism and implicit bias in the courts.” The opinion noted that “Massachusetts court leaders comment on and are taking steps to address these important concerns,” but cautioned that such “posts must serve a legitimate educational or informational purpose” and the judge “must avoid posts that individually or as a pattern would lead a reasonable person to conclude [he has] a predisposition or bias that calls [his] impartiality into question.”
  • The judge has posted, for example, “excerpts from an examination in which a defendant used profanity when addressing [a] judge and another reporting that a defendant threw bottles of urine and feces at a judge following sentencing.” The committee advised the judge to avoid posts of this nature because they detract from the dignity of the judiciary and the court system as “a reasonable person may perceive these posts to be needlessly offensive, or as making light of behavior by litigants who may have mental health problems.”
  • The judge has posted “photographs that appear to show litigants, attorneys, court personnel, and judges” in his courtroom or lobby and photos that include children. The opinion stated that privacy and safety concerns require the judge to obtain consent from any person (or from a parent, in the case of a minor) whose image he posts, unless he is “retweeting a photo that was previously disseminated to the public by the press, an organization or association of judges or lawyers, or other similar source.”
  • The opinion stated that “posts that generally reflect pride in [the judge’s] personal characteristics, background, and achievements” do not indicate personal bias or prejudice and are consistent with the code, noting “[i]t is long-settled that a judge’s gender, race, or other personal characteristics are not grounds for a reasonable person to question the judge’s ability to interpret and apply the law fairly and impartially.”

The committee emphasized that “each judge who uses Twitter or other forms of social media must, of course, consider whether the application of this advice in the judge’s individual circumstances will be consistent with the Code,” considering, for example, “whether a particular post or communication would be improper in light of cases pending before that judge and that judge’s typical caseload.”  With respect to retweets, the committee stated a judge should consider both the content and the source of the posts.  The committee also stated that, because the list of accounts the judge follows is public, the judge “must be cautious when selecting accounts to follow and avoid, for example, following the accounts of political candidates or parties.”

Throwback Thursday

20 years ago this month:

  • Approving a conditional agreement for discipline, the Indiana Supreme Court suspended a judge from office without pay for 7 days for meeting ex parte with a defendant in a case pending before him and failing to disqualify himself from a case in which that defendant was a key witness. In the Matter of Sanders, 674 N.E.2d 165 (Indiana 1996).
  • Concurring with a joint resolution and affirming the findings of fact and agreed sanctions, the Mississippi Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a former municipal court judge who had incarcerated a defendant without notice or hearing, sentenced a second defendant to more jail time than allowed by law, and found the same defendant guilty of perjury based on his own affidavit and warrant even though perjury is a felony and beyond the jurisdiction of the municipal court. Commission on Judicial Performance v. Fletcher, 686 So. 2d 1075 (Mississippi 1996).
  • Granting a joint motion for approval of a recommendation, the Mississippi Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge who had engaged in irregularities in the disposition of traffic-related offenses, including reducing 3 DUIs in violation of a statute, assessing costs or fines in excess of the statutory maximum in 6 cases, failing to require affidavits in 4 cases, issuing orders without authority, and allowing cameras in the courtroom; the judge was also fined $2,628 and ordered to pay all costs. Commission on Judicial Performance v. Emmanuel, 688 So. 2d 222 (Mississippi 1996).
  • Pursuant to a stipulation, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a judge for (1) acting on an ex parte communication, quashing a warrant lawfully issued by another judge; (2) unilaterally assuming jurisdiction over a dissolution of marriage action at the ex parte request of the husband based on a personal relationship even though the judge knew that a dissolution action was pending in Arizona and that the parties’ minor child was residing with the mother there; improperly issuing an arrest warrant and writ of extradition for the mother and advising the father as to the proper method to seek enforcement of said writ in Arizona; and refusing to consult with the judge in Arizona regarding the case; (3) discussing the specifics of a plea bargain in an ex parte communication with the prosecutor; (4) conduct that repeatedly gave the appearance of ex parte contacts with both parties and counsel outside of court where issues in controversy were discussed and substantive matters appeared to be decided; (5) demeanor that on multiple occasions gave the impression to parties and attorneys that he was failing to be attentive to the matters pending before him; (6) a level of competency below that demanded of a superior court judge in civil matters; (7) failing to avail himself of educational assistance programs for judges; and (8) giving the appearance that he was swayed by personal affiliations and relationships with members of organizations to which he belonged. In re Jorgensen, Stipulation (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 6, 1996).

Fall issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter

The fall issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter is now available to be downloaded at no charge.

The issue has an article on charitable contributions as part of sentences that states “[a]bsent statutory authority . . . advisory committees agree that a judge may not require a contribution to a charity as part of a sentence. . . .  In addition, judges have been disciplined for requiring a charitable contribution as part of a criminal disposition.”  The article then explains the rationale for the rule and describes its applications to situations such as plea bargains and contributions in exchange for dismissal of charges or in lieu of community service.

Also in the issue is an article on improper delegation of adjudicative responsibilities that discusses cases in which “[j]udges have been disciplined for inappropriately entrusting their judicial duties to court staff, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers.”  The cases fall into categories such as pre-signed bail orders, turning over a docket to the prosecutor, use of a signature stamp by court staff, and court staff presiding over court proceedings.  There is also a section on judges’ delegating to court staff the setting of fines pursuant to a schedule.

In addition, the issue has an article on judges’ attendance at inaugural events for elected public officials, summaries of selected recent advisory opinions, and summaries of selected recent judicial discipline cases on incivility and asserting the prestige of judicial office.

Free downloads of past issues of the Reporter and an index of Reporter articles are available on the Center for Judicial Ethics web-site.  You can sign up to receive notice when a new issue of the Reporter is available.

Throwback Thursday

25 years ago this month:

  • Based on a stipulation, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge who, after entering a judgment in favor of the defendant in a small claims matter, granted a new trial before a different judge following an ex parte communication with the plaintiff. In re Killien, Stipulation, agreement and order of admonishment (December 9, 1991).