Throwback Thursday  

5 years ago this month:

  • Approving a stipulation and the recommendation of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the Florida Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge for (1) making a public statement at a symposium about a criminal case pending before him; (2) writing a letter to a newspaper about the race for the state attorney’s office; and (3) criticizing the state attorney’s office while presiding over 5 criminal cases. Inquiry Concerning Cohen (Florida Supreme Court January 21, 2014).  The Court’s order does not describe the judge’s misconduct; this summary is based on the stipulation.
  • The Minnesota Supreme Court publicly censured a former tax court judge for failing to issue timely decisions in 6 cases, making false certifications, and making false statements in his decisions about submission dates. Inquiry Concerning Perez, 843 N.W.2d 562 (Minnesota 2014).
  • Based on the presentment of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, the New Jersey Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a former judge for egregious legal errors while presiding over a criminal trial. In the Matter of DiLeo, 83 A.3d 11 (New Jersey 2014).
  • Granting petitions for review filed by a complainant, the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability of the U.S. Judicial Conference adopted and published an order of the 9th Circuit Judicial Council publicly reprimanded a former judge for a racist and political e-mail, particularly when coupled with the hundreds of other e-mails he regularly sent from his court e-mail account. In re Complaint of Judicial Misconduct (Cebull), 751 F.3d 611 (S. Judicial Conference Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability 2014).

#MeToo and the judiciary

Top judicial ethics stories of 2018

The #MeToo movement to hold accountable people in authority (usually but not always men) for their sexual misconduct in the workplace began in October 2017 in Hollywood and has since spread to many other professions.  That the theme of “Time’s Up” would apply to the judiciary was clear by December 2017, with the publication of allegations about Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.  As Chief Justice Roberts wrote in his 2017 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary:  “Events in recent months have illuminated the depth of the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, and events in the past few weeks have made clear that the judicial branch is not immune.”

The timeline for the Kozinski scandal is:

2017

December 8
The Washington Post publishes an article entitled:  “Prominent appeals court Judge Alex Kozinski accused of sexual misconduct.”

December 14
Based on the news reports, the Chief Judge of the 9th Circuit identifies a complaint against Judge Kozinski under the Rules for Judicial Conduct and Judicial Disability Proceedings.

December 15
The Washington Post publishes a second article:  “Nine more women say judge subjected them to inappropriate behavior, including four who say he touched or kissed them.”

Chief Justice Roberts transfers the complaint against Judge Kozinski to the Judicial Council for the 2nd Circuit.

December 19
Judge Kozinski retires.

2018

February 5
Based on Judge Kozinski’s retirement, the 2nd Circuit Judicial Council concludes the complaint against him.

April 17
The U.S. Judicial Conference Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability forwards a copy of the 2nd Circuit Judicial Council’s order to the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee chair and ranking minority member, the Speaker, and the minority leader.

December 10
Kozinski is co-counsel on a brief on behalf of the appellant filed in the 9th Circuit.


* * *
Apparently but not expressly prompted by the Kozinski revelations, in his 2017 year-end report, Chief Justice Roberts announced creation of a working group to examine the federal judiciary’s practices for investigating and correcting sexual harassment in the workplace.  The federal courts have assiduously kept the public informed of their progress:

March 13
The federal working group describes nearly 20 reforms and improvements that have been implemented or are under development.

May 1
Based on the work of its own committee, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit adopts a “Policy on Equal Employment Opportunity, Discrimination, Harassment, and Employment Dispute Resolution.”

May 21
Based on the work of its own committee, the 9th Circuit Judicial Council adopts revised policies and procedures regarding workplace environment for all employees, including law clerks.

June 4
The federal working group issues a report with findings and recommendations to improve workplace conduct policies and procedures.

September 13
The U.S. Judicial Conference Committee on Codes of Conduct and Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability publish for public comment proposed amendments to the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges and to the Rules for Judicial-Conduct and Judicial-Disability Proceedings.  The Judicial Conference also approves changes to the judiciary’s model employment dispute resolution plan to cover interns and externs and to extend the time for initiating complaints from 30 to 180 days.

October 30
The committees hold a public hearing on the proposed changes to the code and the rules.

November 28
The D.C. Circuit adopts policies and procedures to improve the handling of and response to workplace misconduct issues.

December 4
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts appoints the first judicial integrity officer for the federal judiciary.

December 31
In his 2018 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary, Chief Justice Roberts provides an up-date on the working group’s efforts, endorses its recommendations, and explains that the proposals will be fine-tuned before the next meeting of the Judicial Conference in March 2019.

2019
March 12
The U.S. Judicial Conference approves “a package of workplace conduct-related amendments,” including amendments to the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges, the Code of Conduct for Judicial Employees, and the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act Rules.

* * *
With respect to state courts, on January 31, 2018, the Conference of Chief Justices adopted a resolution encouraging “the judicial branch of each state, territory, and the District of Columbia to establish and maintain policies:  (1) to provide every judge and employee with training that addresses the various forms of workplace harassment, including sexual harassment, and related intimidation and reprisal that are prohibited by law; and (2) to establish procedures for recognizing and responding to harassment and harassment complaints.” Most states already had sexual discrimination and harassment policies, but some have recently adopted new or revised procedures or announced committees to make recommendations for up-dates.  So far:

  • The Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court announced the creation of a working group to examine what changes are needed in the court system’s anti-sexual harassment policy and procedures.
  • The Arizona Supreme Court adopted a new section on discrimination and harassment to the Code of Judicial Administration.
  • The Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court created an 8-member working “group to study and make recommendations for how the judicial branch can prevent and address harassment, discrimination, or inappropriate workplace conduct.”
  • The Florida Supreme Court adopted “Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures for Sexual Harassment Complaints against Justices and Judges,” replacing a policy adopted in 2004.
  • The New Jersey Supreme Court adopted a “Revised Judiciary Policy Statement on Equal Employment Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Anti-Discrimination.”

In October, the National Center for State Courts created a “repository for resources to assist the state courts in developing or updating training, policies, and procedures” regarding workplace harassment.

* * *
It is too early to tell whether the #MeToo movement will result in more judges being publicly disciplined for sexual harassment; even if there has been an increase in complaints about such conduct to conduct commissions since October 2017, many of those matters would still be in the confidential investigation phase, particularly if the allegations are extensive and disputed.

There were several resignations in 2018 that terminated investigations of workplace misconduct.

  • Based on a stipulation and the judge’s resignation and agreement not to serve in judicial office, the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications concluded its investigation of allegations that a magistrate had inappropriate relationships with court employees and attorneys during court hours and on court property. In the Matter of Shoulders, Stipulation and agreement for resolution of investigation (Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications May 2, 2018).
  • According to the Omaha World-Herald, in February, a Nebraska Supreme Court justice resigned following a complaint to the Judicial Qualifications Commission; reportedly, the allegations were “in line with the national #MeToo movement,” and attorneys and former colleagues, including 2 women, told the newspaper that his judicial career “has been pocked with sexual comments to women.”
  • According to the Washington Post, the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities told a former court administrative aide in January that it had decided to file charges based on her complaint that a trial judge had created a sexually charged work environment, but, in May, the Commission notified her that the charges were being “held in abeyance” in light of the judge’s announcement that he was retiring effective June 1.
  • Based on the judge’s resignation and agreement to be disqualified from judicial service in the state, the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct agreed not to pursue further disciplinary proceedings against a judge it had begun investigating after receiving a letter from the judge’s attorney about events described in an article in D Magazine entitled “Ardor in the Court” about the judge’s alleged affair with an attorney who was serving as counsel for one of the parties in a high value probate matters over which the judge was presiding. Peyton, Voluntary agreement to resign from judicial office in lieu of disciplinary action (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct January 26, 2018).

There were several judges publicly sanctioned for sexual misconduct in the workplace in 2018.

  • The Kansas Commission on Judicial Qualifications ordered a former judge to cease and desist from verbal and/or physical conduct that is offensive and demeaning to female court reporters and judges and to continue his retirement without seeking election or accepting appointment to any judicial office. Inquiry Concerning Yeoman, Order (Kansas Commission on Judicial Qualifications February 7, 2018).
  • Accepting the parties’ stipulation of facts, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court indefinitely suspended a judge without pay and publicly censured him for his sexual relationship with a member of the drug court team; the Court also ordered that a copy of its order be delivered to the governor and the legislature. In re Estes, Order (Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court May 24, 2018).  The judge resigned after the decision.
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for hiring a woman with whom he had an intimate relationship and making inappropriate comments to her during office hours, in addition to other misconduct. Public Reprimand of Jasso and Order of Additional Education (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 18, 2018).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for engaging in an intimate relationship with the city’s prosecutor. Public Reprimand of Berry and Order of Additional Education (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct February 21, 2018).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for inappropriately touching another judge and 2 court clerks at a social function and sending the other judge an offensive text message, in addition to other misconduct. Public Reprimand of Williams (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 14, 2018).
  • Based on a stipulation and agreement, the Washington State Commission publicly admonished a judge for responding “nine inches” after a female court clerk stated, “I have a question for you” to him after a court session. In re Kathren, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 7, 2018).

See also In re Complaint No. 05-18-90083, Memorandum (Judicial Council for the 5th Circuit November 9, 2018) () (finding that appropriate corrective action had been taken and concluding a proceeding against an unnamed magistrate judge for inappropriately pursuing social relationships with an attorney who practices before him and with a court employee).

Those cases do not necessary reflect an increase in discipline attributable to the #MeToo movement, however, because there are several such cases every year and, given the timing, most were likely initiated prior to October 2017.  See, e.g., “Sexual harassment:  Top judicial ethics and discipline stories of 2017,” Judicial Conduct Reporter (winter 2018).

There are currently several pending public judicial discipline proceedings with sexual misconduct allegations.

  • Based on a complaint by the Judicial Conduct Board, the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline has found that a judge committed misconduct by viewing images of naked and partially naked women while in his office, in addition to other misconduct. A hearing on sanctions will be scheduled.
  • Following a hearing, the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct has recommended that a court of appeals judge be indefinitely suspended for a pattern of inappropriate sexual comments and conduct with at least 2 members of his judicial staff in the workplace and outside of work, in addition to other misconduct.
  • In a notice of formal proceedings, the California Commission on Judicial Performance has alleged that a judge, in addition to other misconduct, engaged in a pattern of conduct towards a deputy public defender that was unwelcome, undignified, discourteous, and offensive and that would reasonably be perceived as sexual harassment or sexual discrimination, and made unwelcome, undignified, discourteous, and offensive comments, some of which would reasonably be perceived as sexual harassment or sexual discrimination, to and about other female attorneys who appeared before him and to and about other women who appeared or worked in his courtroom, including a court reporter and litigants.
  • In a notice of formal proceedings, the California Commission on Judicial Performance has alleged that a justice, in addition to other misconduct, engaged in a pattern of conduct that was unwelcome, undignified, discourteous, and offensive, and that would reasonably be perceived as sexual harassment or as bias or prejudice based on gender towards another justice on the court, California Highway Patrol officers assigned to the judicial protection section, court attorneys and other court personnel while on the California Court of Appeal and toward female court employees while a magistrate judge at the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California between 1999 and 2009.

 

Throwback Thursday

10 years ago this month:

  • The Arkansas Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission publicly reprimanded a judge for failing in several cases to decide matters promptly and expediently and to report those delays. Letter of Reprimand (Keaton) (Arkansas Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission January 16, 2009).
  • Approving the recommendation of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the Florida Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge for publicly attacking fellow judges by filing a petition for writ of mandamus in the district court of appeal. Inquiry Concerning Barnes, 2 So. 3d 166 (Florida 2009).
  • In lieu of filing formal charges, the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications publicly admonished a judge for entertaining and granting an ex parte petition for temporary custody without prior notice to the custodial parent or an opportunity for her to be heard. Public Admonition of Banina (Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications January 20, 2009).
  • Based on the recommendation of the Judiciary Commission, the Louisiana Supreme Court publicly censured a judge for (1) ordering defendants charged with drug offenses to pay money to private organizations without ascertaining whether the organizations met statutory requirements and (2) allowing an employee to take a second job with the federal government. In re Johnson, 1 So. 3d 425 (Louisiana 2009).
  • Accepting the findings and recommendations of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, the Ohio Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge for asking an assistant prosecutor ex parte to prepare a sentencing order. Disciplinary Counsel v. Stuard, 901 N.E.2d 788 (Ohio 2009).
  • Based on charges filed by the Judicial Conduct Board, the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline suspended a judge from office for 3 months without pay for issuing a “stay-away” order at the request of an acquaintance without conducting an evidentiary hearing or providing notice to the defendant and making the order appear to be part of an official court proceeding. In re DeLeon, 967 A.2d 460 (Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline 2009).
  • Based on stipulated facts in lieu of trial, the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline publicly reprimanded a judge for asking for campaign contributions at a biker rally; the Court also ordered that the judge be on probation for 2 years. In re Singletary, 967 A.2d 1094 (Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline 2009).

Indictments and impeachments in West Virginia

Top judicial ethics stories of 2018

Of the 5 justices who were on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in late 2017, only 2 were still on the Court in late 2018:

  • 1 justice resigned in June 2018 and subsequently pled guilty to a federal criminal charge.
  • 1 resigned in August after being impeached by the House of Delegates.
  • 1 resigned in November; there were pending judicial discipline charges against him, he had been impeached, and he had been convicted of federal criminal charges.

Of the 2 remaining:

  • 1 was impeached in August but was acquitted after a trial in October although the senate reprimanded and censured her.
  • 1 was impeached in August, but, in October, the Court, with 5 acting justices sitting, prohibited the senate from proceeding with the prosecution.

Following is a timeline of the events in West Virginia:

2017

January
The justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals elect Justice Allen Loughry as Chief Justice.

April
The justices change the rule to increase the term for chief justice from 1 year to 4 years and elect Justice Loughry to a full 4-year term.

November 14
WCHS-TV begins a series of reports on spending by the Court, particularly hundreds of thousands of dollars for renovating the justices’ chambers in 2013.  Other media reports follow.

November 20
Chief Justice Loughry meets with federal law enforcement representatives to report his concerns about spending by the other justices and the former administrative director of the Court.  The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office begin investigating possible misuse of funds by the justices.

December
Federal investigators serve a subpoena on the Court.

2018

February 16
The other justices vote to remove Justice Loughry as chief justice after learning he did not tell them about the federal subpoena.  Justice Margaret Workman is chosen as chief justice.

June 6
The Judicial Investigation Commission files a formal statement of charges against Justice Loughry.  The charges allege that the justice:

  • Used a state vehicle on 148 days for personal uses, including book signings for his 2006 book on public corruption in West Virginia, entitled Don’t Buy Another Vote, I Won’t Pay for a Landslide;
  • Made false statements about his involvement in the renovation of his office in testimony before the House of Delegates Committee on Finance while under oath, in 2 media interviews, and in an op-ed piece;
  • Kept a federal subpoena secret from the other justices;
  • Had a valuable antique desk moved from his court office to his home by a moving service paid for by the Court and, after reporters began asking questions, returned the desk, using court employees and a court van;
  • Had a couch moved from his court office to his home;
  • Had new court computers installed in his home for personal use by himself, his wife, and his son; and
  • Told the public information officer for publication that the Court had a long-standing practice of allowing a justice to furnish a home office with court-provided equipment and furniture when, in fact, there was no policy beyond providing computer equipment.

The Court suspends Justice Loughry without pay pending the outcome of the disciplinary proceedings.

June 20
Justice Loughry is indicted on 22 federal charges:  18 counts of wire or mail fraud, 1 count of witness tampering, and 3 counts of lying to federal investigators.  The fraud counts allege that he claimed mileage for trips on which he drove a court vehicle and used a government credit card for gasoline; received reimbursement from the Pound Institute for his travel expenses to an event in Baltimore, despite having used a state-owned vehicle and a state government credit card; used government vehicles and government credit cards for personal use; lied to other justices about his vehicle usage; and unlawfully converted to his own personal use a valuable desk that belonged to the Court.

June 26
Pursuant to the governor’s proclamation, the legislature holds a special session “to consider matters relating to the removal of one or more Justices of the Supreme Court of Appeals” and passes a resolution authorizing the House Committee on the Judiciary to investigate impeachable offenses.

July 2
The Judicial Hearing Board stays the disciplinary proceedings against Justice Loughry pending the federal criminal proceedings.

July 11
Justice Menis Ketchum resigns.

July 12
The House Judiciary Committee begins hearings on whether to impeach the remaining 4 justices.

August 7
The House Judiciary Committee recommends 14 articles of impeachment against Chief Justice Workman, Justice Loughry, Justice Robin Davis, and Justice Elizabeth Walker.

August 13
The House of Delegates adopts 11 articles of impeachment.  Justice Loughry is named in 7 of the articles, Chief Justice Workman in 4, Justice Davis in 4, and Justice Walker in 1.

The articles charge that:

  • All 4 justices “waste[d] state funds with little or no concern for the costs to be borne by the tax payers for unnecessary and lavish spending for various purposes;” failed to prepare and adopt sufficient and effective travel policies; failed to “report taxable fringe benefits, such as car use and regular lunches, on Federal W-2s;” failed to “provide proper supervision, control, and auditing of the use of state purchasing cards leading to multiple violations of state statutes and policies regulating the proper use of such cards;” failed to “prepare and adopt sufficient and effective home office policies;” and failed to “provide effective supervision and control over record keeping with respect to the use of state automobiles,” inventories of state property owned by the courts, and purchasing procedures.
  • Justice Loughry spent approximately $363,000 in the renovation of his personal office, including a $31,924 couch and a $33,750 floor with a medallion; “cause[d] a certain desk, of a type colloquially known as a ‘Cass Gilbert’ desk, to be transported from the State Capitol to his home . . . ;” “intentionally acquire[d] and use[d] state government vehicles for personal use;” “intentionally acquire[d] and use[d] state government computer equipment and hardware for predominately personal use;” and “made statements while under oath before the West Virginia House of Delegates Finance Committee, with deliberate intent to deceive, regarding renovations and purchases for his office . . . .”
  • Justice Davis spent approximately $500,000 in the renovation of her personal office, including a rug that cost approximately $20,500, a desk chair that cost approximately $8,000, and over $23,000 in design services.
  • Justice Workman, Justice Davis, and Justice Loughry when they were chief justice signed and approved contracts, forms, and/or administrative orders that provided for the payment of senior status judges over the maximum salary for senior status judges set by statute.

August 13
Justice Davis resigns.

August 23
Former justice Ketchum pleads guilty in federal court to 1 felony count of wire fraud, admitting to repeated personal use of a state vehicle and fuel credit card for travel to and from his home and a private golf club in western Virginia.

September 11
At a pre-trial conference for the Senate impeachment trial, Chief Justice Workman, Justice Walker, and the House members serving as prosecutors submit a proposed agreement that would have provided for the dismissal of the articles of impeachment, but the Senate votes to reject the settlement.

September 21
Chief Justice Workman files a petition for a writ of prohibition asking that the Court stay and halt the impeachment proceedings “because they are premised on unconstitutional articles.”

October 1
Following a 2-day impeachment trial, the Senate votes 32-1 to acquit Justice Walker but does reprimand and censure her.

October 11
The Court, with 5 acting justices sitting by temporary assignment, prohibits the state senate from prosecuting impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Workman, finding that the articles of impeachment violated the separation of powers clause and that her due process rights had been violated.  The Court directs that the mandate be issued immediately.

October 12
A jury convicts Justice Loughry on 11 federal charges:  7 counts of wire fraud, 2 counts of making false statements to federal investigators, and 1 count each of witness tampering and mail fraud.  The jury acquits him of 9 counts of wire fraud and 1 count of mail fraud and deadlocks on 1 count of wire fraud.

October 22
The Judicial Investigation Commission files an amended formal statement of charges to add a count regarding Justice Loughry’s conviction of a crime and moves to lift the stay and expedite the proceedings.

November 9
In a proclamation, the governor convenes the legislature for a special session on November 13 “to consider matters relating to the removal of Allen Loughry, Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, including, but not limited to, censure, impeachment, trial, conviction, and disqualification.”

November 10
Justice Loughry resigns.

2019

January 8
The House of Delegates files with the U.S. Supreme Court a petition for a writ of certiorari arguing that the decision prohibiting the impeachment of Chief Justice Workman “violates the guarantee clause of the United States Constitution by eviscerating the state’s republican form of government.”

January 11
Loughry’s motion for a new trial on wire fraud and mail fraud charges is denied; his conviction on 1 count of witness tampering is vacated.

February 8
Loughry’s second motion for a new trial, based on social media activity by 1 juror, is denied.

February 13
Loughry is sentenced to 24 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $1,273 to the state and the Pound Civil Justice Institute.

February 21
In an agreement to dispose of the statement of charges, Loughry agrees to be disbarred, to never serve in public office in the state again, and to pay costs and disciplinary counsel agrees to recommend that he be publicly censured/reprimanded and fined $3,000.

March 6
Former justice Ketchum is sentenced to 3 years of probation, fined $20,000, and ordered to pay restitution to the state.

March 11
The West Virginia Senate files a petition for a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court raising the issues:  “1) Whether Guarantee Clause claims are judicially cognizable?” and “2) Whether a state judiciary’s intrusion into the impeachment process represents so grave a violation of the doctrine of separation of powers as to undermine the essential components of a republican form of government?”

 

 

Throwback Thursday

20 years ago this month:

  • The Arkansas Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission publicly admonished a judge for failing to act for almost 6 months on a writ of mandamus issued by the state supreme court directing him to act upon a Freedom of Information Act request. Letter to Keith from the (Arkansas Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission January 20, 1999) (https://jddc.arkansas.gov/Websites/jddc/images/pdf/Tom%20J.%20Keith%201999.PDF).
  • The California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly censured a former judge for having a clandestine, intimate relationship with 1 of 3 co-defendants, continuing to preside over their cases, allowing the relationship to influence his actions, and engaging in numerous improper ex parte communications. Inquiry Concerning Trammell Decision and order (California Commission on Judicial Performance January 5, 1999) (https://cjp.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/2016/08/Trammell_48_Cal.4th_CJP-Supp._56.pdf).
  • The Utah Supreme Court accepted a stipulation for the public censure of a judge for driving a vehicle for several months knowing that the registration had expired. In re Dimick, Order (Utah Supreme Court January 22, 1999) (https://jcc.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/DimickJoseph-1999Censure.pdf).
  • The Utah Supreme Court accepted a stipulation for the public censure of a former judge for appropriating to her own use $1,200 cash bail and failing to forward abstracts of reportable traffic violations to the drivers’ license division within 10 days of the conviction or plea. In re Chavez, Order (Utah Supreme Court January 13, 1999) (https://jcc.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/ChavezPatricia-1999Censure.pdf).
  • The Washington Supreme Court publicly censured a former judge and suspended him from office until the end of his term for intentionally striking or pushing his wife, causing her to fall. In the Matter of Turco, 970 P.2d 731 (Washington 1999).

 

Recent cases

  • The California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly admonished a judge for (1) in 3 misdemeanor probation cases, improperly remanding the defendants and delaying setting revocation hearings until after the defendants served a predetermined time in jail, which conveyed the appearance that the judge was circumventing the sheriff’s department’s early release program; (2) improperly responding to a peremptory challenge; (3) referencing her personal life when discussing the ability of 2 defendants to pay fines; and (4) being discourteous to several criminal defendants. In the Matter Concerning Elswick, Public admonishment (California Commission on Judicial Performance December 13, 2018).
  • Based on a stipulation for discipline by consent, the California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly admonished a former judge for making comments in a restraining order proceeding that were undignified, inappropriate, belittling, and injurious to the parties and based on gender stereotypes, raising the appearance of gender bias. In the Matter Concerning Stafford, Decision and order (California Commission on Judicial Performance December 13, 2018).
  • Granting the Judicial Standards Commission’s petition to accept a stipulation to permanent resignation in lieu of further disciplinary proceedings, the New Mexico Supreme Court ordered the permanent resignation of a judge; the Commission had filed a notice of formal proceedings alleging that the judge had (1) during a conversation outside the courtroom, threatened the city attorney with contempt and/or arrest when there were no proceedings involving him pending before the judge and she was not on the bench; (2) telephoned the city library director and yelled, cursed, and used offensive and foul language toward her and threatened to have her fired because the judge did not agree with an ordinance concerning library procedures; (3) after a board of trustees/city council meeting that she attended and in which citizens had complained about code violations likely to come before her court, met with the citizens and announced her position on the violations; (4) informed some citizens that she did not agree with and would not enforce the library ordinance; (5) contrary to the library ordinance, dismissed pending library cases for no apparent reason and/or allowed the time to expire on pending cases so she could dismiss them, making statements to the effect of “dismiss all those complaints” and “I’m going to let the six-month rule run on the others;” (6) made statements to the effect that she can do as she pleases and get what she wants “because I’m the judge;” (7) called members of the city’s board of trustees to use their influence in getting her demands for herself and resources for her court; (8) after adjudging a defendant guilty in a weed and rubbish ordinance case, failed to impose any penalty as mandated by the ordinance, allowed him to pay only court costs, and stated in open court that otherwise the code enforcer would just keep “bugging” the defendant; (9) changed penalty assessment traffic citations to hearings, contrary to law; (10) informed her neighbor ex parte that the neighbor had a warrant or would have a warrant if she failed to appear in court, failed to promptly notify the other party of the communication, and failed to disqualify from the neighbor’s case; (11) informed a relative of her neighbor ex parte that she had a warrant or would have a warrant if she failed to appear in court, failed to promptly notify the other party of the communication, and failed to recuse from the case; (12) granted ex parte requests from the defendants in 2 cases for continuances without providing the prosecuting officers notice and an opportunity to be heard; (13) attempted to get special treatment for travel and per diem reimbursements even after being told her requests did not comply with statutory requirements; and (14) refused to sign per diem paperwork for her court staff to attend out-of-town training because she disagreed with the manner in which the city made the financial reimbursements. In the Matter of Soriano, Order (New Mexico Supreme Court December 3, 2018).
  • Granting a petition to accept a stipulated agreement and consent to discipline, the New Mexico Supreme Court publicly censured a judge for refusing to allow an emergency bathroom break for the alleged victim in a domestic violence case, allowing the jury to witness the removal of the victim’s chair, reading the jurors’ notes in the case, and preparing a witness statement for the court interpreter about the request. Inquiry Concerning Madrid, Order and public censure (December 31, 2018).
  • Accepting the stipulation of the parties, the New Mexico Supreme Court publicly censured a judge for failing to transfer a case to the district court after the defendant’s competency became an issue and holding the defendant indefinitely, resulting in the defendant’s incarceration for over 4 months without due process of law. In the Matter of Van Gundy, Order and public censure (New Mexico Supreme Court December 31, 2018).
  • Accepting a stipulation based on the judge’s resignation and affirmation not to seek or accept judicial office in the future, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct concluded a matter involving a former judge, who waived confidentiality to the limited extent that the stipulation can become public. In the Matter of Scolton, Decision and order (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 6, 2018).  In a formal written complaint, the Commission had alleged that the judge, (1) for over 3 years, failed to timely report and deposit court funds to the State Comptroller and the town’s chief fiscal officer; (2) for almost 27 years, failed to properly notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of 2,612 defendants in motor vehicle cases who were convicted, failed to pay a fine, or failed to answer the charge; (3) for over 3 years, failed to monitor his official court e-mail account or respond to e-mails received by that account; and (4) from mid-2017 through May 2018, failed to use a computer and software provided by the Office of Court Administration to facilitate the court’s financial and case administration.
  • Accepting a stipulation based on the judge’s resignation and affirmation not to seek or accept judicial office in the future, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct concluded a matter involving a former judge, who waived confidentiality to the limited extent that the stipulation can become public; the judge had been served with a formal written complaint alleging that he made homophobic and/or otherwise inappropriate remarks and gestures to an attorney. In the Matter of Hallett, Decision and order (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct June 13, 2018).
  • Based on an agreed statement of facts, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a non-lawyer judge for failing to account for the receipt of over $15,000 in court funds or promptly remit those funds to the Office of the State Comptroller as required and accumulated a surplus of funds in his court bank account that he could not identify. In the Matter of McDermott, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 12, 2018).
  • Based on the report of a referee following a hearing, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for, after her vehicle struck a police van, voluntarily identifying herself as a judge to the police several times, presenting her judicial identification card, and making several other references to her judicial status, and repeatedly questioning the necessity for an accident report and the delay in preparing the report in an attempt to curtail the investigation and be allowed to leave. In the Matter of Michels, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 27, 2018).
  • Adopting the findings and recommendation of the Board of Professional Conduct, which were based on stipulations, the Ohio Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a magistrate for presiding over 3 cases in which she had previously participated personally and substantially as a lawyer for a government agency. Disciplinary Counsel v. Holben (Ohio Supreme Court December 20, 2018).
  • Based on joint stipulations of fact in lieu of trial, the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Conduct removed a former judge who had pled nolo contendere to “criminal activity related to the exercise of his judicial duties,” that is, retaining the services of constables predicated on their accession to his demand that they contribute to his judicial re-election campaign fund from the income they received from performing constable services for his judicial office. In re Jennings, Opinion (Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Conduct December 19, 2018).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly warned a judge for authorizing the use of his name, title, and likeness on a mailer advertising a campaign event for a candidate for state senate. Public Warning of Cano (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 13, 2018).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for issuing 2 felony arrest warrants based on complaints that did not contain sufficient probable cause and on information outside the 4 corners of the complaints; the Commission also ordered the judge to obtain 2 hours of instruction with a mentor. Public Reprimand of Brady (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct November 14, 2018).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for (1) inappropriately touching another judge and 2 court clerks at a social function and sending the other judge an offensive text message and (2) making disparaging comments about the district attorney’s office in court in 2 cases. Public Reprimand of Williams (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 14, 2018).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for, in 2 cases involving the same father but different mothers, ordering the children removed from the mothers’ custody and given to the father in the absence of a verified pleading or affidavit, denying the mothers an opportunity to be heard, and failing to be dignified and courteous. Public Reprimand of Williams (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 14, 2018).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly warned 2 judges for engaging in joint campaign efforts, including a joint fund-raiser and joint campaign materials; the Commission also ordered both judges to obtain 2 hours of instruction with mentors. Public Warning of Martin and Order of Additional Education (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 20, 2018); Public Warning of Cooks and Order of Additional Education (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 20, 2018).
  • Based on a stipulation and agreement, the Washington State Commission publicly admonished a judge for responding “nine inches” after a female court clerk stated “I have a question for you” to him after a court session. In re Kathren, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 7, 2018).
  • Based on a stipulation and agreement, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for driving under the influence. In re Tanner, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 7, 2018).
  • Based on a stipulation and agreement, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a supreme court justice for 2 Facebook posts soliciting support for non-profit organizations. In re Yu, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 7, 2018).
  • Based on a stipulation and agreement, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for a post on his Facebook page encouraging people to attend a charity pancake feed. In re Svaren, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 7, 2018).

 

 

Throwback Thursday

25 years ago this month:

  • Adopting the recommendation of the Judicial Conduct Commission, the Arizona Supreme Court suspended a judge for 90 days without pay for (1) acting as an intermediary between an acquaintance and the owner of a Nevada casino about the establishment of gambling operations in Mexico; (2) discussing a proposed enterprise to recover stolen property from Mexico for insurance proceeds; (3) inducing a pro tem justice of the peace to sign an injunction in a case from which he had recused himself; (4) involving himself in the police investigation of a domestic complaint brought against a court clerk by her husband; (5) permitting ex parte contacts by criminal defense lawyers, including discussions about the terms of release for their clients; (6) allowing others to gain the impression that a local attorney, who had represented the judge in a divorce proceeding and from whose mother-in-law the judge had borrowed money, enjoyed a favored position with the judge and in his court; (7) failing to report his wife’s employment with a Nevada casino on his financial disclosure statement; (8) occasionally ignoring established court procedures and dismissing or otherwise disposing of traffic tickets for acquaintances; (9) allowing his staff to receive gifts from persons and organizations doing business with the court; (10) requesting that the police issue a traffic citation to a truck driver who passed him in a no passing zone and then presiding over the matter; (11) failing to disclose to litigants and counsel that certain attorneys appearing in his court had represented him personally in the past; (12) carrying a concealed weapon without a license; (13) attempting to obtain information from his staff about the Commission’s investigation, then denying having done so in a deposition; and (14) signing, without authority, a letter purporting to appoint an acquaintance as a justice court police officer. In the Matter of Gumaer, 867 P.2d 850 (Arizona 1994).
  • Accepting the findings and recommendations of the Judicial Qualifications Commission based on a stipulation and the judge’s agreement, the Florida Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge who had failed to vacate an order that both parties agreed was mistakenly entered. Inquiry Concerning Vitale, 630 So. 2d 1065 (Florida 1994).
  • Adopting the conclusions of law of the Commission on Judicial Qualifications based on agreed facts, the Kansas Supreme Court publicly censured a judge for (1) as a district court judge, presiding over contested cases in which the Garden City was a party while also serving as municipal judge of Garden City; (2) signing an offer to purchase a condominium from an estate 18 days after signing orders admitting the will to probate; (3) purchasing a home that was the subject of a foreclosure action while the lawsuit was still pending before him; and (4) apparently breaching a contract to buy a piece of property and then failing to notify the realtors, the lenders, or the buyers of his own property that he had been sued and served with process for that breach. In the Matter of Handy, 867 P.2d 341 (Kansas 1994).
  • Accepting the recommendation of the Commission on Judicial Performance, the Mississippi Supreme Court suspended 4 municipal judges for as long as they also served as mayor of their municipalities. In re Grant, Herring, Beamon, and Ward, 631 So. 2d 758 (Mississippi 1994).
  • The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a judge for, (1) committing 5 defendants charged with misdemeanors, violations, or traffic infractions to jail without setting bail, in violation of a state statute; (2) stating to a defendant charged with several traffic violations, “You’re going to jail; no bail,” and failing to advise the defendant of the charges against him and of his rights concerning counsel, resulting in the defendant remaining in jail for 21 days, even though the maximum period that he could properly be held awaiting trial was 5 days; (3) after his home was vandalized on Halloween, asking a defendant charged with throwing an egg at the mayor’s truck on Halloween whether he would tell what had happened to his home and increasing the defendant’s bail in subsequent cases without making any inquiry until the defendant eventually spent 64 days in jail in lieu of bail, even though the law mandated release after 30 days; and (4) accusing a defendant of directing foul remarks at him at a previous appearance, demanding an apology, and saying that, if he had not been wearing his robes, he would have thrown the defendant’s a** through a wall, which compelled the defendant to accept a plea bargain. In the Matter of Yusko, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct January 27, 1994).
  • Based on an agreed statement of facts, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for (1) suggesting in a political advertisement that his opponent would be biased as a judge and was not respected in his profession and comparing him to comic characters and (2) publicly supporting the re-election of the county executive and publicly criticizing the county executive’s opponent. In the Matter of Decker, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct January 27, 1994).
  • The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct removed a judge for (1) failing to deposit court funds into his official account within 72 hours of receipt as required by statute, (2) failing to remit court funds to the state comptroller by the tenth day of the month following collection as required by statute, (3) failing to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of the disposition of 272 traffic tickets as required by statute, (4) with respect to 170 traffic tickets, failing to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of the defendants’ failure to appear in court or otherwise answer the charges or to pay fines imposed by the court, (5) failing to respond to letters from Commission counsel, and (6) failing to appear to give testimony before the Commission even though he was notified by letter that his appearance was required by law. In the Matter of Tiffany, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct January 26, 1994).