Judicial Conduct Reporter

The spring issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter has been published.  The issue has articles on:

  • Judicial discipline for drunk driving
  • Public hearings in judicial discipline proceedings
  • Why do judicial conduct commissions dismiss so many complaints?
  • Recent cases
    • Intoxicated altercation (In the Matter of Adams, Jacobs, and Bell, 134 N.E.3d 50 (Indiana 2019))
    • Letter of support (Inquiry Concerning Lederman, Caballero, Figarola, Pooler, and Ruiz (Florida Supreme Court 2020))
    • Review and approve (Public Reprimand of Leahy (Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards 2020))
    • “Beyond mere friendly conversation” (Disciplinary Counsel v. Porzio (Ohio Supreme Court 2020))
    • Much more than catching extra fish” (In the Matter of Ferguson (West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals 2020))

The Judicial Conduct Reporter is published electronically, and an index and current and past issues of the Reporter are available on-line.  Anyone can sign up to receive notice when a new issue is available.

Winter issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter

The winter issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter has been published.  The issue has articles on:

  • State judicial discipline in 2019
  • Removal cases in 2019
  • Top judicial ethics and discipline stories of 2019
    Relationships, disqualification, and disclosure
    Political comments
    Sexual misconduct
  • What judges said that got them in trouble in 2019
    What they said to or about criminal defendants
    What they said to litigants in family court cases
    What they said to self-represented litigants
    What they said ex parte
    What they said to attorneys
    What they said to or about court staff
    What they said to or about other judges
    What they said in their personal lives
    What they said that abused the prestige of office

The article on “Relationships, disqualification, and disclosure” begins:  “Although judges are not automatically disqualified from cases involving someone they know, a judge’s duty to at least disclose a relationship is triggered  by ties far short of blood or marriage and far more often than judges may think, as several judicial discipline cases from 2019 illustrate.”  One of the first cases of 2020 also demonstrates that evident blind spot for some judges.

Adopting the findings of fact of a hearing panel, which were based on admissions, and agreeing with its conclusions, the Wisconsin Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a part-time court commissioner for failing to recuse himself from a small claims case in which a close friend appeared as an attorney or to at least disclose the relationship and for making angry and sarcastic comments to the self-represented defendant in the trial of the case.  In the Matter of Gorski (Wisconsin Supreme Court January 30, 2020).

The commissioner and Timothy Gebert:

  • Had known each other for approximately 20 years,
  • Socialize at least once a month,
  • Went on 4 overseas vacation trips together with other individuals between 2015 and 2018, and
  • Frequently take overnight golfing trips together, locally and in other parts of the U.S.

In September 2015, during a pretrial conference the commissioner scheduled a trial in a small claims case for November 18.  Gebert represented the plaintiff; the defendant, a non-lawyer, represented himself.

In October, the commissioner, Gebert, the commissioner’s son, and a fourth person went on a week-long golfing trip to Ireland.  In November, the judge presided over the trial in the small claims case without disclosing the trip or his friendship with Gebert to the defendant.

During the trial, the commissioner lost his temper with the defendant.  He said, “Stop, now, just stop with that!  Jesus . . . .  Come on.  That’s getting old, that’s getting really old.”  Later in the trial, the commissioner audibly groaned at something the defendant said and then asked, “Why can’t you just be quiet when other people are talking?”

After the commissioner ruled, the defendant asserted that the verdict was an example of corruption.  The commissioner groaned again and then responded, “That’s my middle name . . . corruption.”  The commissioner admitted that his comments were angry and sarcastic.

After the Commission notified the commissioner that it was investigating his failure to recuse himself in the small claims case, the commissioner presided over a pretrial conference in another case in which Gebert represented a party and the other party was self-represented.  While that case was pending before him, the commissioner went with Gebert and others to Vietnam.  During the disciplinary investigation, the commissioner told the Commission that Gebert had appeared before him 6 or 7 times.

Judicial Conduct Reporter

The summer issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter has been published.  The issue has articles on:

  • Continuing jurisdiction over former judges
  • Marijuana and judicial ethics
  • Fund-raising for problem-solving courts
  • Recent cases
    • Willful ignorance, unreasonable credulity, and misappropriation (In the Matter of Corradino (New Jersey); In the Matter of Freese (Indiana))
    • Ex parte communications and independent investigation (Judicial Commission v. Piontek (Wisconson)

The Judicial Conduct Reporter is published electronically, and an index and current and past issues of the Reporter are available on-line.  Anyone can sign up to receive notice when a new issue is available.

 

 

Judicial Conduct Reporter

The spring issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter has been published.  The issue has articles on:

Judicial ethics and jurors

  • Discourteous treatment of jurors
  • Deliberating juries
  • Criticism and praise
  • Post-verdict meetings
  • Letters of appreciation
  • Feedback

A judge’s discretion to report criminal conduct
Recent judicial discipline cases

  • Ex parte e-mails (In re Filip (Michigan))
  • Inappropriate e-mail (In the Matter of Booras (Colorado))
  • Sleep deprivation (In the Matter of Hastings (Nevada))

The Judicial Conduct Reporter is published electronically, and an index and current and past issues of the Reporter are available on-line.  Anyone can sign up to receive notice when a new issue is available.

Judicial Conduct Reporter

The winter issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter has been published.  The issue reviews 2018 and has articles on:

  • State judicial discipline in 2018
  • Removal cases in 2018
  • Top judicial ethics and discipline stories of 2018
    #MeToo and the judiciary
    Indictments and impeachments in West Virginia
    Facebook fails
    Legal error plus
  • What judges said that got them in trouble in 2018
    What they said to or about litigants
    What they said to or about attorneys
    What they said to or about court staff
    What they said that abused the prestige of office
    What they said on social media
    What they said during campaigns

The Judicial Conduct Reporter is published electronically, and an index and current and past issues of the Reporter are available on-line.  Anyone can sign up to receive notice when a new issue is available.

 

 

Fall issue of Judicial Conduct Reporter published

The fall issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter has been published and is available on-line.  It has articles on:

  • Consensual sexual relationships between judges and court staff
  • Pornography at the courthouse
  • California Commission mentorship program
  • Vouching for pardon, parole, or clemency
  • Recent cases
  • Neighbor dispute (In re Calvert, Wisconsin)
  • Soliciting speaking engagements (In re Steigman, Illinois)
  • Project promotion (In re Roach, Texas)
  • Friendship and favors (In the Matter of Johanningsmeier, Indiana)
  • Another Facebook fail (In re Matter Concerning Gianquinto, California)

The Judicial Conduct Reporter is published electronically, and an index and current and past issues of the Reporter are available on-line.  Anyone can sign up to receive notice when a new issue is available.

 

 

Summer Judicial Conduct Reporter published

The summer issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter has been published and is now available on-line.  It has articles on:

  • Professional boundaries in the courthouse,
  • Promotional campaigns for alma maters and other organizations,
  • The resign-to-run rule, and
  • Recent cases involving Facebook.

The Judicial Conduct Reporter is published electronically, and an index and current and past issues of the Reporter are available on-line.  Anyone can sign up to receive notice when a new issue is available.

 

 

Spring issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter

The spring issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter has been published and is now available on-line.  It has articles on habitual tardiness, mixing family and politics at home, including when a family member is a candidate and when a family member supports a candidate, and ethical guidelines for members of judicial conduct commissions.  It also has summaries of recent cases in which judges were disciplined for banning a clerk from the courthouse (Indiana), stalking and harassing (Louisiana), independent investigation in a harassment case (Nevada), ex parte information in a domestic violence case (New York), commenting to a reporter and a discourteous remark in a domestic violence case (California), and a $4 billion bond (Texas).

The Judicial Conduct Reporter is published electronically, and an index and current and past issues of the Reporter are indexed and available on-line as a free download.  You can sign up to receive notice when a new issue is available.

Winter issue of Judicial Conduct Reporter

The winter issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter has been published.  The issue is the annual year-in-review issue with articles on the number of public judicial discipline sanctions in 2017, summaries of all of the removal cases in 2017, the top judicial ethics and discipline stories of 2017, and “what they said that got them in trouble in 2017.”  The top stories were:  sexual harassment, politicking, judicial well-being, same-sex marriage, and Facebook fails.

All past issues of the Reporter and an index are available on-line.  Anyone can sign up to receive notice when a new issue is available.

Fall issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter

The fall issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter has been published and is available to download.  All past issues of the Reporter are also available on-line as free downloads, and there is an on-line index of Reporter articles.  You can sign up to receive notice when a new issue is available.

The issue has articles on abusing the prestige of office to attempt to obtain a favor, communications by a trial judge with a reviewing court, holiday gifts and parties, and a former judge’s use of the judicial title.  It also has summaries of recent cases in which judges were disciplined for giving interviews about a pending case; failing to disqualify from cases involving an attorney with whom the judge had a support relationship; and directing insulting, demeaning, and humiliating comments and gestures to children.

The article on requesting favors begins:

A judge’s appeal for a favor from police, prosecutors, or other judges is a classic example of “abus[ing] the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or others” in violation of Rule 1.3 of the American Bar Association 2007 Model Code of Judicial Conduct.  The crux of the misconduct is taking advantage of access not available to non-judges and/or expecting special consideration not accorded to the general public.

Using recent cases involving attempts by judges in person or on telephone calls to influence police officers, prosecutors, court staff, and/or other judges, the article demonstrates that “an explicit request, an express reference to the judicial office, or acquiescence by the other person are not necessary to prove a violation.”

Demonstrating the chronic nature of the problem, several additional cases about favor-seeking have been issued since the article was written.

  • Affirming the Court of Judicial Discipline, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the removal of a judge for seeking the advice of another judge about her son’s case and acquiescing in his offer to communicate ex parte with the judge who was handling the case. In re Roca (Pennsylvania Supreme Court November 22, 2017).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for communicating in an ex parte e-mail and phone call with the judge presiding over her nephew’s criminal case and voluntarily testifying as a character witness on her nephew’s behalf at his probation revocation hearing, in addition to other misconduct. Public Reprimand of Hawthorne (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct November 9, 2017).

In addition, 2 judges were recently sanctioned for written communications on behalf of others.

  • The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a judge for signing his name and judicial title beneath a defendant’s signature on a letter requesting that another judge change a plea for a traffic infraction. In the Matter of Sullivan, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct March 13, 2017).
  • Accepting an agreed statement of facts and recommendation, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for (1) invoking her judicial title and position in a letter on court stationery she wrote on behalf of her childhood babysitter to be filed in connection with a motion to vacate the babysitter’s conviction and (2) writing 2 affirmations on behalf of her son to be filed in the appellate division in connection with his criminal case. In the Matter of Ramirez, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct May 4, 2017).

As the New York Commission explained in Ramirez, “[w]hen a litigant is the beneficiary of influential support from a judge based on personal connections, it creates two systems of justice, one for the average person and one for those with ‘right’ connections, and undermines public confidence in the impartial administration of justice and in the integrity of the judiciary as a whole.”  The Commission emphasized:

When asked to provide a letter or similar communication on behalf of a family member, friend or acquaintance, every judge must be mindful of the importance of adhering to the ethical standards intended to curtail the inappropriate use of the prestige of judicial office . . . .  Difficult as it may be to refuse such requests, the understandable desire to provide assistance and support must be constrained by a judge’s ethical responsibilities, including the duty to act “at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary” . . . .

Finally, the Virginia Supreme Court removed a judge for contacting 2 potential witnesses prior to his wife’s trial on federal corruption charges.  Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission v. Pomrenke (Virginia Supreme Court November 27, 2017).  The judge had sent his wife’s boss a handwritten note, with his judicial business card, that “was intended to make his wife’s employment secure” and “reflected an intent to influence a potential witness” by suggesting the boss would agree she “is absolutely honest, truthful, ethical, and innocent.”  In an attempt “even more overt in its intent to influence a witness,” the judge also left a voicemail message for another employee 3 days before she was expected to testify, asking her to “slip in” remarks that would be favorable to his wife, “even though it’s not directly in response to the questions.”  The Court found the judge had violated the prohibition on lending the prestige of office to advance private interests.