Conditions

Many commissions and courts can impose conditions on judges in judicial discipline cases.  For example, the rule in Indiana provides:  “Upon a finding of misconduct . . . or disability . . . , the Supreme Court may impose . . . limitations or conditions on the performance of judicial duties,” alone or in combination with other sanctions.  In 2019, conditions were imposed in over 20 cases, usually with the judge’s agreement.

For example, as part of a stipulation, a judge who was publicly admonished for delays of 392 days and 132 days in deciding 2 family law cases agreed to maintain a list so that pending matters will be regularly brought to his attention and, every 3 months for a year, to affirm in writing that he has no matters with decisions pending beyond 90 days to the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct.  In re Fennessy, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 26, 2019).

In several discipline cases, judges were required to undergo a psychological assessment as part of the sanction.  For example, the Maryland Court of Appeals conditioned a judge’s reinstatement after a 6-month suspension without pay on an emotional and behavioral assessment by a qualified health care professional.  The judge was required to “fully cooperate in the health care evaluation and comply with the recommended course of treatment, including counselling, if any;” and, if and when she applies for reinstatement, to provide the Commission of Judicial Disabilities and the Court “a written report from the evaluating health care professional or professionals” about her current medical condition, including any reason why she should not be reinstated as a district court judge.  The judge had (1) failed to treat other judges and courthouse staff with dignity and respect, including repeatedly yelling at court clerks and judges, subjecting court clerks to line-ups when clerical mistakes were made, physically pushing a clerk, and repeatedly attempting to undermine the authority of the administrative judge and (2) abdicated her duty to handle and process search warrant materials as required by statute and instructed a law clerk to destroy warrant materials.  In the Matter of Russell, 211 A.3d 426 (Maryland 2019).

In 2 unrelated cases, the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline placed judges on probation in addition to sanctioning them and ordered them to complete any treatment complete any recommended treatment by licensed psychologists following a psychological and psychosocial assessments.

In In re Muth, Opinion (October 31, 2018), 220 A.3d 1220 (Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline 2019), the Court suspended a  judge for 45 days without pay and fined him $5,000 for (1) viewing images of naked and partially naked women while in his office and (2) having judicial employees grade papers and make copies of handouts on the court’s copier for classes he was teaching.  The purpose of the psychosocial assessment, the Court stated, was “to determine the cognitive, behavioral and emotional motivation leading to the inappropriate sexualized behavior . . . .”

In In re Maruszczak, Opinion (January 9, 2019), Opinion (Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline October 4, 2019), the Court publicly reprimanded a judge for, during his re-election campaign, publicly confronting 3 people who supported his opponent and yelling at them, insulting them, and threatening them.  The purpose of the psychological assessment, the Court explained, was “to assess impulse control and anger related issues.“

See also Inquiry Concerning Lemonidis, 283 So. 3d 799 (Florida 2019) (agreeing that a judge continue stress management counseling in addition to a public reprimand, pursuant to a stipulation, for her comments in 2 criminal cases).

The condition most often imposed is a requirement of additional education, often with a mentor.

For example, a judge agreed to participate in a mentoring program he would develop in consultation with the chief judge when he agreed to be publicly reprimanded by the Vermont Judicial Conduct Board for directly contacting attorneys, including attorneys who appeared before him, to ask them to be part of a campaign committee.  In re Glennon, Public reprimand with order (Vermont Judicial Conduct Board August 28, 2019), pursuant to a stipulation.

Ordering instruction with a mentor is an option often imposed by the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

  • The Commission publicly reprimanded a judge for pulling traffic citations to have an assistant district attorney file a motion to dismiss and/or provide other preferential treatment and ordered that he receive 20 hours of additional instruction with a mentor about traffic citations and warrants. Public Reprimand of Trejo and Order of Additional Education (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 26, 2019).
  • The Commission publicly warned a judge for refusing to allow a litigant to review and copy the charging documents in his case unless and until he entered a plea and for her policy and practice with respect to requests for access to court files; the Commission also ordered the judge to receive 2 hours of instruction with a mentor on public access to court records and responding to requests for court records. Public Warning of Baggett and Order of Additional Education (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct August 8, 2019).
  • The Commission publicly admonished a judge for invoking her judicial position during a telephone conversation with a man she believed was the estranged husband of a woman she believed was cohabitating with her estranged husband; the Commission also ordered that she receive 2 hours of instruction with a mentor, particularly on judicial ethics and professionalism. Public Admonition of Rocha and Order of Additional Education (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct August 26, 2019).

Both the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct and the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline ordered judges to complete the web-based course, “Ethics and Judging:  Reaching Higher Ground,” offered by the National Judicial College.  Guerrero, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct March 29, 2019) (reprimand for threatening to hold 2 police officers in contempt for failing to comply with his order to arrest a woman for violating a harassment injunction entered in a proceeding from which the judge had recused himself); In the Matter of Jasperson, Stipulation and order of consent (Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline July 23, 2019) (reprimand for ordering a landlord jailed for contempt without following the law).

The Nevada Commission also ordered 2 judges to attend at their own expense other specific courses at the National Judicial College, which is located in Reno, Nevada.

  • The Commission publicly censured a judge for using an alternate judge whenever it was his turn to act as on-call search warrant judge for 4 years and failing to cooperate with 3 chief judges and ordered the judge to attend the NJC course “Leadership for Judges.” In the Matter of Hastings, Findings of fact, conclusions of law, and imposition of discipline (Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline March 6, 2019).
  • The Commission publicly admonished a hearing master for ignoring an attorney’s objections to her questioning of a juvenile defendant, interfering with the attorney-client privilege and relationship, yelling at the attorney, attempting to pressure the juvenile into answering her questions by telling her that her probation would be increased if she refused, preventing the attorney from making a record on his objection, and threatening to contact the attorney’s boss; the Commission also ordered the judge to complete “Managing Challenging Family Law Cases: A Practical Approach” at the NJC.  In the Matter of Henry, Findings of fact, conclusions of law, and imposition of discipline (Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline December 12, 2019).

Other examples of education requirements:

  • Based on an agreement, the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for sharing partisan posts on Facebook. The judge also agreed to complete a program addressing ethical issues and the use of social media; to refrain from making any comments or disseminating any substantially similar social media posts; and to keep his social media platforms private.  Lammey (Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct November 15, 2019).
  • Based on a stipulation and agreement, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for, without notice or a reasonable evidentiary basis, entering an order in a case to which he was not assigned that gratuitously attacked the character of 2 attorney. The judge also agreed to participate in 4 hours of judicial ethics training, not to repeat his conduct, and to read the code of judicial conduct.  In re Spanner, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct November 22, 2019).

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