Throwback Thursday

10 years ago this month:

  • The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for abruptly dismissing a jury when defense counsel had not arrived in the courtroom by 8 a.m. even though he knew the building remained locked; failing to make the defendant and defense counsel aware there was a way to get into the locked courthouse; refusing to allow defense counsel to explain what had happened on the record; and abruptly disqualifying himself and submitting the matter for re-assignment, causing the parties substantial delay and inconvenience.  Chiles, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct April 9, 2012).
  • Pursuant to the judge’s agreement, the Arkansas Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission publicly reprimanded a judge for taking action in 2 cases following ex parte communications from the defendants’ parents, 1 of whom was a court employee and 1 of whom was a former client.  Letter of Reprimand (Karren) (Arkansas Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission April 27, 2012).
  • Pursuant to the judge’s agreement, the Arkansas Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission publicly censured a judge for delays in several cases.  Letter of Censure (Keaton) (Arkansas Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission April 27, 2012).
  • The California Commission on Judicial Performance severely admonished a judge for (1) making denigrating and undignified comments to litigants and related parties in 5 family law proceedings; (2) inappropriately commenting on complaints made against him and viewing litigants’ web posts about matters pending before him; (3) independently investigating facts in a case; and (4) failing to disclose on the record information that was reasonably relevant to the question of disqualification.  In the Matter of Friedenthal, Decision and order (California Commission on Judicial Performance April 3, 2012).
  • Pursuant to the judge’s agreement, the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline publicly admonished a judge for his conduct when his former bailiff was charged with domestic violence.  In the Matter of Melville, Finding of fact, conclusions of law, and consent order (Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline April 13, 2012).
  • Pursuant to the judge’s agreement, the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary publicly reprimanded a judge for releasing his son on his own recognizance after his arrest for driving under the influence.  Smith, Letter of reprimand (Tennessee Court of the Judiciary April 2, 2012).

Recent cases

  • Accepting an agreement, the Georgia Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge for periodically dismissing cases without the legal authority to do so.  Inquiry Concerning Baker (Georgia Supreme Court March 8, 2022).
  • Reviewing the findings and recommendation of the Judiciary Commission, which were based on stipulations, the Louisiana Supreme Court suspended a judge from office for 4 months without pay for, while presiding over a child custody case, engaging in improper ex parte communications on Facebook Messenger with the children’s maternal grandmother for over a 6-month period; attempting to issue a special order for visitation; and misleading a fellow judge by failing to disclose his personal involvement in the matter and disparaging the grandmother’s attorney.  In re Denton (Louisiana Supreme Court March 25, 2022).
  • Based on the report and recommendation of the Commission on Judicial Conduct, the Massachusetts Supreme Court Judicial Conduct suspended a judge without pay for engaging in an intentionally touching a court employee without her consent at a court-sponsored event and providing inconsistent and knowingly false statements during the investigation and hearing; the suspension was for “a reasonable time to permit the executive and legislative branches to consider, if they wish, whether the respondent should retain his judicial office.”  In the Matter of Sushchyk, 183 N.E.3d 388 (Massachusetts 2022).
  • Based on the report of a referee following a hearing, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a judge for failing to disclose a debt owed to her on her financial disclosure forms from 2006 to 2019 and suggesting to the debtor’s attorney that the debtor sign a confession of judgment or exclude the debt from his bankruptcy filing.  In the Matter of Jamieson, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct February 11, 2022).
  • Accepting an agreed statement of facts, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a non-lawyer judge for failing to certify to the state Department of Labor all of the days that he had presided as a town justice, and, as a result, accepting unemployment insurance benefits to which he was not entitled.  In the Matter of Okolowicz, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct February 17, 2022).
  • Accepting a stipulation based on the judge’s affirmation that he has vacated his office and will not seek or accept judicial office in the future, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct concluded a proceeding against a former non-lawyer judge; the Commission had informed the judge that it was investigating a complaint alleging, inter alia, that the judge (1) at the arraignment of a defendant who identifies as Native American, made snide comments about the defendant’s annuity from the Seneca Nation; (2) failed to file mandatory reports and remittances to the State Comptroller on time; and (3) imposed fines and surcharges outside the limits set in statute.  In the Matter of Schindler, Decision and order (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct March 17, 2022).
  • Accepting a stipulation based on the judge’s affirmation that she has vacated her office and will not seek or accept judicial office in the future, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct concluded a matter against a former judge; in December, the judge was convicted by a jury of federal charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to a federal agent.  In the Matter of Ash, Decision and order (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct March 17, 2022). 
  • Based on its findings of misconduct, which were based on stipulated facts, the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline removed a former judge and barred him from further judicial service for (1) arbitrarily ordering that a woman be imprisoned for 25 days on a “dubious probation violation charge” out of anger and “on a personal whim” after she offended his law clerk in a disagreement in a convenience store and (2) attempted to intimidate a courthouse employee into signing a confidentiality statement by posting the employee’s private grievance on a public bulletin.  In re Toothman, Opinion and order (Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline March 17, 2022).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for stating in a Facebook post that he would release anyone brought before him charged with violating stay at home orders or other restrictions issued during the COVID-19 public health emergency.  Public Admonition of Black (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct February 28, 2022).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for, in 3 family violence cases, intentionally delaying hearings, resetting cases multiple times without just cause, failing to effectively communicate her expectations about procedures and time constraints to waiting court-goers, and repeatedly ignoring attorneys’ requests to obtain case settings or to dispose of their clients’ cases.  Public Reprimand of Mullin (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct March 4, 2022).

Throwback Thursday

20 years ago this month:

  • The California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly admonished a judge who had pled nolo contendere to a misdemeanor charge of willful or negligent cutting or mutilation of trees growing on public land without permission.  Public Admonishment of McBrien (California Commission on Judicial Performance April 25, 2002).
  • Accepting the recommendation of the Judiciary Commission, the Louisiana Supreme Court publicly censured a judge for making contributions from his excess campaign funds to 7 candidates for public office.  In re Shea, 815 So. 2d 813 (Louisiana 2002).
  • Pursuant to a stipulation and agreement, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for failing to submit a decision for almost 14 months in the judicial review of an administrative decision of the shoreline hearings board.  In re Sheldon, Stipulation, Agreement and Order of Admonishment (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 5, 2002).

Zoom, Facebook, and symptoms

Judicial conduct related to the COVID-19 pandemic has recently resulted in 1 private admonishment and 2 public sanctions.

The Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards privately admonished a judge who, before “a hearing by Zoom, . . . not realizing others had joined the meeting, used a derogatory word to refer to a party.  The comment was overheard by others at the Zoom hearing, including the party’s attorney.  The judge showed remorse, immediately apologized, and self-reported his conduct to the Board.”

The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for stating in a post on the county’s Facebook page that he would release anyone brought before him charged with violating stay-at-home orders issued during the COVID-19 public health emergency.  Public Admonition of Black (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct February 28, 2022).

The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for failing to grant a continuance requested by an attorney who had COVID-19 symptoms or to make arrangements to allow the attorney to appear telephonically and then granting a default judgment against the attorney’s client, a defendant in a civil traffic case.  Sears, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct January 26, 2022).

On the morning of April 28, 2021, the attorney for the defendant in a scheduled civil traffic hearing experienced COVID-19 symptoms and filed an emergency motion to continue the hearing.  The attorney’s staff also informed the court’s staff, and the court staff assured them that the motion to continue would be given to the hearing officer scheduled to preside over the hearing. 

The judge denied the motion to continue, and a default judgment was entered against the defendant.  The court file “clearly showed” that the defendant’s presence was waived for that hearing.  The defendant’s attorney filed a motion to reconsider/set-aside, but the judge also denied that motion.

The Commission found that the judge’s “failure to liberally grant a continuance or make arrangements to allow the attorney to appear telephonically detrimentally affected the Complainant through the default judgment entered and fine imposed.”  The Commission concluded that, in addition to violating the code of judicial conduct, the judge had violated administrative orders issued by the Arizona Supreme Court, providing, for example, that “Judicial officers shall liberally grant continuances and make accommodations, if necessary and possible, for attorneys, parties, victims, witnesses, jurors, and others with business before the courts who are at a high risk of illness from COVID-19 or who report any COVID-19 diagnosis, symptoms, or exposure notification by public health authorities.”

9 other judges have previously been publicly sanctioned for conduct related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Judge spoke sharply to court staff when disconnected from a Zoom hearing and yelled at court staff when lawyers and parties were allowed into the courtroom prior to the scheduled time for a case.  Quickle, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct June 11, 2021) (reprimand).
  • Judge repeatedly failed to wear a face covering when interacting with the public and staff in court facilities as required by administrative orders, failed to require individuals in his courtroom to abide by administrative orders, and appeared “to publicly denigrate those orders.”  Goodman, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct May 13, 2021) (reprimand).
  • Judge displayed improper demeanor toward 2 criminal defense attorneys appearing by phone for an arraignment on the first day after the stay-at-home order was in effectIn the Matter Concerning Connolly, Decision and order (California Commission on Judicial Performance April 2, 2021) (admonishment for this and other misconduct).
  • Judge failed to wear a protective face covering at all times while on court premises as required by a state supreme court order and asked a clerk if they minded if he did not wear a mask; and, after the court began conducting telephonic hearings due to the pandemic, issued bench warrants when 11 defendants failed to call the court on their appearance date without determining if the defendants had been properly summonsed.  In the Matter of Guthrie, Order (New Mexico Supreme Court October 29, 2021) (30-day suspension without pay for this and other misconduct).
  • Judge engaged in disruptive behavior during a meeting about the court’s COVID-19 safety plan, confronted another magistrate and the Chief Magistrate after the meeting, and made an inappropriate statement to a clerk about the Chief Magistrate’s complaint to Disciplinary Counsel.  In the Matter of Rivers, 862 S.E.2d 449 (South Carolina 2021) (6-month suspension without pay).
  • Judge stated in the courtroom:  “The Grand Wizard of our Supreme Court said we have to wear these masks.”  Ledsinger (Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct September 28, 2020) (reprimand).
  • Judge failed to comply with the court’s COVID-19 plan on courtroom capacity and social distancing and commented in the courtroom that he wished the chief justice “would win an award so that the COVID-19 mandates” would end.  Hinson (Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct December 15, 2020) (reprimand).
  • Judge declined to determine who was attempting to appear at the end of a calendar via Zoom.  In re Burchett, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 23, 2021) (reprimand for this and other misconduct).
  • Judge criticized the prosecution of a case in comments that he thought could only be heard by the court employees in the courtroom but that were being broadcast through the court’s YouTube channel.  In re Antush, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct November 19, 2021) (admonishment).

Free National Judicial College webinar on abuse of the prestige of judicial office

On Wednesday April 27, the National Judicial College is presenting a webinar on abuse of the prestige of judicial office.  There is no charge for the 90-minute on-line course, which will take place at 3 p.m. Eastern/2 p.m. Central/1 p.m. Mountain/ Noon Pacific/11 a.m. Alaska/9 a.m. Hawaii/.  Judges will learn:  What not to say during a traffic stop – What requests for favors by friends and family should be rebuffed – What abusing the prestige of office looks like on social media and in business activities – When using judicial stationery is inappropriate – When writing a letter of recommendation is permissible.  The faculty are Judge Louis Frank Dominguez, Chair of the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct, and Cynthia Gray, Director of the Center for Judicial Ethics of the National Center for State Courts.  The webinar will be moderated by Keith Fisher, Distinguished Fellow, National Judicial College.

Throwback Thursday

25 years ago this month:

  • Based on stipulated facts and an agreement, the California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly censured a judge for (1) displaying a crucifix in the courtroom, (2) authorizing the use of his name and title in an advertisement celebrating the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, (3) announcing a policy for sentencing persons convicted of DUI that allowed for no exceptions, and (4) making public statements disparaging other judges and local attorneys.  Inquiry Concerning Velasquez, Decision and order (California Commission on Judicial Performance April 16, 1997).
  • Agreeing with the recommendation of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the Florida Supreme Court removed a judge from office for ordering her clerk to back-date convictions in 47-52 DUI cases to disguise the length of time that she had taken to dispose of the cases.  Inquiry Concerning Johnson, 692 So. 2d 168 (Florida 1997).
  • Acting on a complaint filed by the Judicial Inquiry Board, the Illinois Courts Commission publicly censured the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court for, on 4 occasions, failing to cooperate with and disobeying law enforcement officials who had stopped him for violations of traffic laws and volunteering the information that he was a member of the judiciary after being stopped by the officers.  In re Heiple, Order (Illinois Courts Commission April 30, 1997).
  • Accepting the recommendation of the Judiciary Commission, the Louisiana Supreme Court publicly censured a former part-time judge for presiding in 20 criminal cases in which attorneys with whom he was associated in the practice of law represented the defendants and for frequently engaging in financial and business dealings with lawyers likely to come before him.  In re Lemoine, 692 So. 2d 358 (Louisiana 1997).
  • Adopting the decision and recommendation of the Judicial Tenure Commission, the Michigan Supreme Court publicly censured a judge for conducting activities relating to community affairs radio and television programs she produced and hosted during court hours in her chambers; on occasion appropriating the services of court personnel to perform tasks related to the production of the programs during court hours; using the court postage system to circulate correspondence and advertisements related to the programs; using the court’s phone service, voice mail system, fax machine, photocopy machine, and other court materials for the programs; soliciting and receiving funds from a car dealer to sponsor the programs; and failing to report any of the funds received.  In the Matter of Cooley, 563 N.W.2d 645 (Michigan 1997).
  • Pursuant to a joint motion for approval of a recommendation, the Mississippi Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge for ex parte conversations with a defendant, the defendant’s mother, the arresting officer, and the prosecutor and his interference with the defendant’s bonding process.  Commission on Judicial Performance v. Vess, 692 So. 2d 80 (Mississippi 1997).
  • The Missouri Supreme Court suspended a judge from office without pay for 30 days for reneging on his agreement with a police chief to drop contempt charges if the police chief released an individual charged with domestic abuse, filing an incomplete and misleading contempt affidavit, and making a public statement regarding a pending case that reflected pre-judgment.  In re Conard, 944 S.W.2d 191 (Missouri 1997).
  • Approving an agreed statement of facts, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a judge for making undignified, discourteous, and disparaging statements while sentencing a citizen of Great Britain who had pled guilty to manslaughter in connection with the death of her infant child.  In re Hanophy, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 2, 1997).
  • Pursuant to the recommendation of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, based on a stipulation, the Ohio Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a former judge for making derogatory remarks regarding a litigant’s national origin in one case; ordering marriage as a condition of probation in 3 cases; and displaying a lack of judicial temperament in 4 domestic violence cases.  Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. Mestemaker, 676 N.E.2d 870 (Ohio 1997).
  • The South Carolina Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a former judge who had, while a judge, been served with an arrest warrant charging assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.  In the Matter of Brown, 484 S.E.2d 875 (South Carolina 1997).
  • The West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission publicly admonished a judge for telling a defendant during his arraignment that, if he wanted appointed counsel his jail time, fine, and costs would be stiffer, and during 2 arraignments, advising the defendants that if they asked for appointed counsel, they could expect the maximum jail time.  In the Matter of Jarrell (West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission April 21, 1997).

A sampling of recent judicial ethics advisory opinions

  • Even before an evidentiary hearing on the admissibility of their spouse’s testimony, a judge must disqualify from a capital case if their spouse, a former public defender, is likely to be called as a material witness based on the totality of the circumstances, for example, the threshold for admissibility of evidence during the sentencing phase of a capital case, defense counsel’s level of motivation to compel the spouse’s testimony, and the likelihood of defense counsel’s success in admitting the spouse’s documents and testimony. California Expedited Opinion 2022-46.
  • A judge who is married to the city chief of police is disqualified from any case in which a subordinate of their spouse is likely to be a material witness. Kentucky Opinion JE-129 (2021).
  • A judge may respond to the county comptroller’s survey concerning the county’s assigned counsel program, subject to generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct. New York Opinion 2021-167.
  • If the judge comports with the dignity of judicial office and eschews personal attacks on government officials, a judge may communicate their opposition to the position of court administrators that the judge will be “unfit for service” if they do not comply with the court system’s vaccination policies. New York Opinion 2022-2.
  • A member of the county commission who has been nominated to a seat on the court of appeals must resign from the commission just prior to taking the oath of office as judge and must disqualify themself from any case involving the commission or any of its subsidiaries while they served as a commissioner. West Virginia Opinion 2022-1.
  • An attorney nominated to be a judge must immediately resign as a member of the bar commission that makes recommendations to the governor about filling judicial vacancies but may continue to serve as president of the State Bar until shortly before being sworn in as a judge or until their term as president ends, whichever is sooner. After becoming a judge, the judge cannot serve as past president of the State Bar. West Virginia Opinion 2022-4.
  • A judge may run for and serve on the board of a homeowners association, send an introductory email to other association members prior to the election with their résumé if the email does not include their title and even if the résumé would include their current position, may participate in a meet-and-greet candidates event, and may acknowledge their employment as a municipal judge (with dates of employment if asked), but must refrain from offering other details. South Carolina Opinion 3-2022.
  • A judge who completed a mediation skills program at a law school’s mediation clinic may permit the clinic to post their comments about the course on the clinic’s Instagram account for general advertising and recruitment efforts, provided the judge is satisfied their name, words, and image will not be used for fundraising. New York Opinion 2021-170.
  • A judge may not accept a lawyer’s offer to represent the judge on a discounted or pro bono basis before the Judicial Standards Commission. New Mexico Opinion 2021-7.
  • A judge whose spouse is running for elected office may not attend campaign events, but their picture may be included in their spouse’s campaign materials and website as long as their title or office is not mentioned, there are no visual elements identifying them as a judge, and no explicit endorsement is featured. Maryland Opinion Request 2022-1.
  • An incumbent judge may appear in a robe in a campaign photograph; may utilize in their campaign a photograph that was not created for campaign purposes and cannot be reasonably interpreted to contain any misrepresentations regarding the judge; and may use a photograph that includes other judges at a public event if the photograph itself and the context, cropping, caption, and other text that accompany it do not suggest or imply any endorsement by the other judges. Illinois Opinion 2021-4.

Interrupt, advise, end, and notify

Accepting a stipulated agreement and consent to discipline, the New Mexico Supreme Court publicly censured a judge for engaging in 2 ex parte phone calls with a criminal defendant’s father, releasing the defendant following those ex parte calls, and failing to notify the prosecution of the calls. Inquiry Concerning Anaya (New Mexico Supreme Court December 13, 2021).

On Friday, April 3, 2020, the judge received an ex parte phone call on his personal cell phone from Fernando Gallegos, the father of Danielle Gallegos, who had been arrested that day on multiple violent felony offenses. On Saturday, April 4, the judge received and engaged in a second ex parte phone call on his personal cell phone from the father. After receiving the second call, the judge signed an order of release, and Danielle was released that Saturday.

The judge’s release of Danielle disregarded a well-established Santa Fe County Magistrate Court protocol that directed the judge on call over the weekend not to release alleged violent offenders until the next business day to allow the district attorney’s office an opportunity to review the charges and determine if a motion for pre-trial detention was appropriate. The judge had never before violated that protocol.

The Court acknowledged that it was understandable that the judge “might receive an ex parte phone call from a litigant or the representative of a litigant from time to time,” noting that New Mexico judges face challenges when working in the many close-knit communities in the sparsely populated state. The Court emphasized the importance of judges in these close-knit communities maintaining “the independence and integrity of the judiciary to preserve the prestige of the office and the public’s confidence in the judiciary.” It explained:

If a judge receives an attempted ex parte communication, it is the judge’s responsibility to not allow or engage in such communications. The judge should interrupt to advise the person that such communications are prohibited and redirect the person to pursue their matter through proper channels, such as through the filing of motions. The judge must also promptly notify all parties of the communication. By adhering to this requirement, the judge may effectively avoid any appearances of impropriety, as well as actual instances of impropriety.

The Court stated that, when it became apparent Mr. Gallegos’ first call concerned the judge’s upcoming review of Danielle’s conditions of release, the judge should have interrupted the call, told Mr. Gallegos that it was improper to call the judge about the matter, and told him “to consult with an attorney and/or to have the defendant file a motion,” and then the judge should have ended the call and “promptly notified the District Attorney’s Office and the defendant of the ex parte phone call and what was discussed.”

Further, the Court stated, when the judge received the second call, on recognizing the telephone number, the judge should have ignored the call or at least, when he answered it, advised Mr. Gallegos that he could not speak about the case without the prosecutor present and then ended the phone call and notified the prosecutor.

The Court explained why the judge’s release of Danielle after the 2 calls was improper.

The Respondent’s actions deprived the prosecutor of his right to notice and to be heard. He violated his own court’s established protocol concerning weekend arrests based upon these two ex parte calls. Respondent’s actions also created the improper appearance that Respondent abandoned his role as a neutral and detached, independent, fair, and impartial fact finder. Respondent’s conduct furthermore undermined the public’s confidence in our state judiciary by compromising the fundamental integrity, impartiality and independence upon which our judicial system is based. . . .

Although recognizing that the court’s protocol was not a law, the Court explained that the protocol was designed to prevent “the very thing” that the judge had done: deprive “the state’s attorney of the opportunity to review the case before releasing an alleged violent offender into the community. Respondent has an affirmative duty . . . to comply with all court rules and procedures. . . . . Court protocols are set in each court and are specific to each court to help ensure the proper administration of justice. Failing to abide by protocols, policies and/or rules set by a judge’s court threatens to undermine the effective administration of justice in that court and could place the alleged victim(s), witness(es), or the community at risk of harm.”

See “Remedy for an ex parte communication” in the summer 2021 issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter.

Throwback Thursday

5 years ago this month:

  • The Florida Supreme Court suspended a judge for 6 months without pay and publicly reprimanded him for (1) while a candidate, (a) falsely stating in a televised debate that he had never been accused of a conflict of interest and failing to correct that statement during the debate or publicly thereafter and (b) stating that he is a registered Republican and that his former affiliation with the Democratic Party was an error; and (2) while an attorney, (a) failing to advise opposing counsel that he was representing the judge presiding in an unrelated case; (b) failing to advise 3 clients of the risks and advantages of common representation and to withdraw when conflicts were apparent; and (c) engaging in representation of one client to the detriment of other clients and incorrectly stating the status of his representation on filings with the bankruptcy court.  Inquiry Concerning Decker, 212 So. 3d 291 (Florida 2017).
  • Based on an agreement, the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission suspended a judge without pay for 30 days for (1) granting permanent sole custody of a child without requiring the petitioner to provide evidence or giving the respondent an opportunity to obtain counsel, cross-examine witnesses, or introduce evidence and (2) ordering 2 minor children to be immediately placed in foster care without conducting a formal hearing, taking any sworn testimony, or affording the parents basic due process; the Commission also ordered the judge to complete courses and training on substantive and procedural due process.  In re Stein, Agreed order of suspension (Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission March 21, 2017).
  • Based on the findings of a referee following a hearing, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a non-lawyer judge for (1) dismissing or reducing charges without notice to or the consent of the prosecution; (2) failing to provide a defendant the opportunity to be heard regarding bail; (3) improperly increasing bail; (4) imposing conditions of release on a defendant that were not based in the law; (5) failing to advise a defendant of the right to counsel, asking incriminatory questions, and imposing improper conditions for permitting the defendant to negotiate a plea; and (6) making improper comments about a defendant’s physical appearance.  In the Matter of Clark, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct March 13, 2017).
  • Accepting an agreed statement of facts and joint recommendation, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a judge for making public comments about a pending murder case over which he was presiding in 3 media interviews and, in a post-trial proceeding, being discourteous to the prosecutor.  In the Matter of Piampiano, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct March 13, 2017).
  • The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a non-lawyer judge for signing his name and judicial title beneath a defendant’s signature on a letter requesting another judge to change a plea for a traffic infraction.  In the Matter of Sullivan, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct March 13, 2017).
  • As recommended by the Judicial Conduct Commission, the North Dakota Supreme Court suspended a judge for 3 months without pay for a pattern of delay and failing to respond to letters from the presiding judge about the timeliness of decisions; the Court also ordered him to attend the course on decision-making at the National Judicial College.  In the Matter of Hagar, 891 N.W.2d 735 (North Dakota 2017).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for failing to provide the plaintiff in a small claims case with adequate written notice of his trial and proceeding to trial without requiring the defendant to file a written answer; communicating with the defendant regarding the merits of the case; failing to treat the plaintiff with patience, dignity, and courtesy; presenting a settlement offer from the defendant to the plaintiff, and using racially insensitive language while in the courthouse; the Commission also required the judge to complete training for new judges and participate in 1 hour of instruction on racial sensitivity with a mentor to be chosen by the Commission.  Public Reprimand of DeLaPaz and Order of Additional Education (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct March 17, 2017).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly warned a judge for refusing to allow a member of the public to inspect and copy case files and physically escorting him out of his office.  Public Warning of Alford and Order of Additional Education (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct March 28, 2017).
  • The West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission publicly admonished a former magistrate for (1) wrongly criticizing the pre-trial/bond review program and a circuit court judge while a guest on a radio program, (2) ex parte communications with a public defender, and (3) banning the complainant from the courtroom in retaliation for informing the prosecutor about the magistrate’s ex parte communications with a public defender.  Public Admonishment of Bias (West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission March 1, 2017).
  • In a de novo review, the Wyoming Supreme Court publicly censured a judge for refusing to perform same-sex marriages and ordered that she either perform no marriage ceremonies or that she perform marriage ceremonies regardless of the couple’s sexual orientation.  Inquiry Concerning Neely, 390 P.3d 728 (Wyoming 2017).