Complaints Against Judges Our legal system is based on the fundamental principle that our courts are an independent branch of government in which fair and competent judges interpret and apply the laws that govern us.The independent role of our judicial system is central to American concept of justice and to our concept of the "rule-of-law". Built-in to the Code of Judicial Conduct are the principles
1. that judges must treat their judicial office as a public trust and
2. that judges must strive to maintain and enhance the public's confidence in our legal system. In his or her role as an adjudicator of the facts and the law, a judge resolves disputes and is a highly visible symbol of government under the rule-of-law.
The Code of Judicial Conduct
establishes the standards of ethical conduct for judges. The Code contains
1. broad statements called Canons,
2. specific rules which are set forth in Sections under each Canon,
3. a Terminology Section,
4. an Application Section, and
5. Commentary. The Canons, the specific rules Sections, the Terminology Section, and the Application Section provide substantive rules for judicial conduct. The Commentary serves to elaborate the standards contained in the rules, to set forth the policy basis for the rules, and, by explanation and example, to provide guidance as to the purpose and meaning of the Canons and the Sections.
The Commentary is not intended as a statement of additional rules. When the text uses "shall" or "shall not," the Code intends to impose a binding obligation upon a judge. A violation of one of these rules could result in disciplinary action against the judge. When "should" or "should not" is used, the Code intends to provide an advisory statement regarding what is or is not appropriate judicial conduct and not to set forth a binding rule under which a judge may be disciplined. When "may" is used, the Code intends to create an area in which a judge has a permissible freedom of choice or it refers to action that is not specifically covered by the Code. The Canons and the Sections are rules of reason. They should be applied in a manner that is consistent with U.S. and state constitutions, statutory laws, case law, court rules, and within the context of the circumstances of the judge's conduct. The Code is to be construed in a manner that does not interfere with the fundamental freedom of a judge to make an independent judicial decision. The Code is designed to provide guidance to judges and candidates for judicial office and to provide a structure for regulating a judge's conduct through disciplinary action. The Code is not designed to provide a basis for civil liability or criminal prosecution. The function of the Code would be undermined if lawyers raised the issue of filing a complaint against a judge for a potential Code violation to order gain an advantage in a court proceeding. The Code is intended to regulate the conduct of judges. The language in the Canons and the Sections form the binding rules by which a judge is to be held accountable for his or her conduct. However, it is not the intent of the Code to discipline every indiscretion of a judge. The decision to take disciplinary action, and the degree of the discipline to be imposed on a judge, should be determined through an impartial process that would include a logical application of the Code's text and take into account such factors as the seriousness of the offense, whether there is a pattern of improper activity, and the effect of the improper activity on the public or on the judicial system. The Code of Judicial Conduct is not intended to be a comprehensive guide for the conduct of judges. A judge's judicial and personal conduct should also be governed by general ethical standards. The purpose of the Code is to set forth the basic standards that regulate the conduct of all judges and to provide guidance to assist judges in establishing and maintaining high standards of judicial and personal conduct. Each state has an independent body (in many states that entity is the Supreme Court) with jurisdiction to hear the evidence against a judge and to render a final decision regarding the formal charges of judicial misconduct. For information regarding the judicial disciplinary agency in your state, click here. After hearing the charges against a judge, that state entity has authority to pass judgment on the judge's conduct. The state entity that conducts the trial against a judge may discipline the judge for inappropriate judicial conduct such as willful misconduct in office, willful or persistent failure to perform duties, habitual intemperance, or conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice or conduct unbecoming a judicial officer, whether such conduct occurred in while the judge was acting in his or her official capacity or whether such conduct occurred outside of his or her judicial duties and that conduct brings his or her judicial office into disrepute. Additional grounds for discipline include a judge's conviction of a felony, a judge's repeated failure to abide by the rules of procedure, a judge's willful violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct or the Rules of Professional Conduct, and a judge's violation of any statute or rule prohibiting judges from participating in political activities. Also, the state disciplinary body may recommend that your state's independent judging authority order the retirement of a judge who has a permanent disability that seriously interferes with the judge's performance of his or her judicial duties. The state disciplinary body does not have authority to consider complaints that are based solely on matters of judicial discretion such as a judge's incorrect ruling or unfavorable decision unless it is essential to the resolution of a complaint of judicial misconduct. The state disciplinary body cannot take action against a judge whose legal rulings were made in good faith. Good faith errors regarding legal or factual matters or how a judge processes a case do not constitute grounds for judicial discipline, even though these actions may constitute reversible error. The state disciplinary body will not interfere with a pending case, unless the complaint is one of delay: the judge has failed to take action in the case. Other complaints will be investigated only when the case is concluded. The state disciplinary body cannot change a judicial decision or a judicial finding of fact. A judicial decision can only be reversed by a higher court, or other process as provided by law. The state disciplinary body is not an appellate court and cannot change a judge's ruling. This limitation on the disciplinary body's authority is frequently misunderstood and is one of the primary reasons a complaint against a judge is dismissed. A majority of the complaints filed with state disciplinary body are usually filed by dissatisfied litigants who do not understand that a misconduct complaint is not an alternative for the appeal process and is not the appropriate method to seek a substitute judge. A Plaintiff or Defendant who is dissatisfied with a legal ruling in his or her case should file an appeal with the appropriate appellate court. (In some jurisdictions, small claims cases cannot be appealed.) While the state disciplinary body is committed to prompt action in response to a serious allegation of judicial misconduct, the majority of complaints it does receive do not warrant investigation. Your state's disciplinary body can only consider complaints involving a judge's professional or personal conduct. Only ethical misconduct, which generally must occur within a specified period of time, is within the state disciplinary body's jurisdiction to investigate and resolve, including filing appropriate charges against a judge for misconduct.
TYPES OF COMPLAINTS THE STATE DISCIPLINARY BODY CAN ADDRESS Misconduct:The broadest category of complaints against judges can be classified as "misconduct" complaints. Judicial misconduct has a very specific meaning under the Code of Judicial Conduct. The Code of Judicial Conduct regulates the activities of judges on and off the bench. The Code is a comprehensive statement of what constitutes appropriate judicial behavior and has been adopted by the highest court of each state as part of the Rules of Court. The Cannons provide that: A judge should uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary. A judge should avoid impropriety A judge should avoid even the appearance of impropriety in all of his or her activities. A judge should perform the duties of his or her office impartially and diligently. A judge may engage in activities to improve the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice. A judge should regulate his or her extra-judicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with his or her judicial duties. A judge should regularly file a report of compensation he or she received for quasi-judicial and extra-judicial activities. A judge should refrain from political activity.
JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT CAN BE DIVIDED INTO SEVERAL CATEGORIESImproper Courtroom Behavior:Complaints against judges often allege improper behavior in the courtroom during a trial. Allegations of a judge's failure to maintain proper courtroom decorum and a judge's failure to be patient, dignified and courteous may include:
1. rude, abusive, and improper consideration and treatment of an attorney, a party, a witness, a juror, the court staff, and others at the hearing;
2. improper physical conduct; or
3. persistent failure to dispose of court business promptly and responsibly. Examples of improper courtroom behavior include:
1. racist or sexist comments by a judge,
2. sleeping or
3. drunkenness on the bench.
Also, Judges may be disciplined for administrative failures such as taking an excessive amount of time to make a decision.
Improper or Illegal Influence: A judge must be independent from any outside influence that may affect his or her ability to be fair and impartial. Consequently, the type of activities in which a judge can participate is restricted. A judge cannot allow family, social or political relationships to influence a judicial decision. Also, a judge should not hear a matter in which the judge has a conflict of interest such as a personal interest in the outcome of the case. A judge must disqualify himself in a proceeding in which his or her impartiality could possibly be cast into doubt. A judge is an officer of the court and is expected to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Extreme examples of improper influence would include giving or receiving a gift, bribe, loan, or other favor from a lawyer, a party, a witness or any other person. Also, it is inappropriate for a judge to engage in charitable fundraising activities. To help insure judicial independence, judges are generally required to file financial disclosure statements with the court and to file other financial statements with the state ethics commission.
Impropriety Off the Bench:
A judge is also required to live an exemplary life off the bench. A judge is an officer of the court and is expected to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Consequently, the state disciplinary body has the authority and the responsibility to monitor a judge's activity outside of the courtroom. Complaints dealing with off the bench conduct include:
1. misappropriation or misuse of public employees, property or funds;
2. improper speech or associations;
3. commenting publicly about a pending matter,
4. interference with a pending or impending lawsuit;
5. lewd or corrupt personal life; or
6. use of his or her judicial position to extort or embezzle funds. Clearly, off the bench conduct includes a wide range of behavior from merely inappropriate actions to criminal violations.
Other Improper Activities:
A judge is also restricted as to other aspects of his or her position including prohibitions against:
1. engaging in private conversations which may influence his or her judicial actions;
2. conducting proceedings or discussions involving one party to a legal dispute, which are known as ex parte communications;
3. interfering with the attorney-client relationship;
4. displaying obvious bias toward a party;
5. abusing his or her contempt of court power;
6. abusing the prestige of his or her judicial office;
7. obstruction of justice, perjury, or filing a false document;
8. engaging in the practice of law;
9. engaging in political activity;
10. improper campaign activities; and
11. criminal behavior.
Physical or Mental Disability:
In addition to allegations of misconduct in office, the state disciplinary body also has the authority and responsibility to deal with allegations of a judge's physical and mental disabilities. Disabilities may include:
1. alcohol or drug abuse;
3. serious physical illness; or
4. mental illness. The state disciplinary body can require that a judge submit to a medical examination as part of its investigation and it can also recommend counseling when appropriate.
TYPES OF COMPLAINTS THE STATE DISCIPLINARY BODY CANNOT ADDRESS Judicial misconduct does not include:
1. a judge's ruling regarding issues of law or on a judge's findings of fact;
2. matters within the discretion of the trial court judge;
3. a judge's ruling on the admissibility of evidence;
4. a judge's ruling on matters of alimony, child support, custody or visitation rights;
5. a sentence imposed by a judge; or
6. matters regarding whether or not to believe a witness.
Conclusion:Although some states are beginning to open the process of judicial discipline to the public, the fact remains that proving a grievance against a judge is a tough battle. As with all professionals, judges tend protect other judges. Unless a judge has committed a serious breach of the Code of Judicial Conduct, a judge's reputation is likely to be protected. A judge's statement about the facts will generally be deemed to be credible. Reform of the disciplinary review system is needed. All states need to open the secret disciplinary process to the public. All review systems need to involve a greater number of non-lawyers in the process. Until there is additional reform in the disciplinary process, the public will probably not be satisfied with the outcome of the disciplinary process. Nevertheless, file a complaint about any unethical conduct by any judge. Even though the current system is inadequate, the judicial disciplinary system does maintain a record of all grievances that are filed. The mere fact that a potential disciplinary action may be filed acts as a deterrent to future misconduct by questionable judges, which benefits the reputable judges and the public as a whole. For information regarding the judicial disciplinary agency in your state,
CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT (CJC)
TABLE OF CANONS
Application of the Code of Judicial Conduct
Canon 1 Judges Shall Uphold the Integrity and Independence of the Judiciary
Canon 2 Judges Should Avoid Impropriety and the Apearance of Impropriety in All Their Activities
Canon 3 Judges Shall Perform the Duties of Their Office Impartially and Diligently
Canon 4 Judges May Engage in Activities To Improve the Law, the Legal System and the Administration of Justice
Canon 5 Judges Shall Regulate Their Extrajudicial Activities to Minimize the Risk of Conflict With Their Judicial Duties
Canon 6 Judges Shall Regularly File Reports of Compensation Received for Quasi-Judicial and Extrajudicial Activities
Canon 7 Judges Shall Refrain From Political Activity Inappropriate to Their Judicial Office
CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT (CJC)
Our legal system is based on the principle that an independent, fair
and competent judiciary will interpret and apply the laws that govern us.
The role of the judiciary is central to American concepts of justice and
the rule of law. Intrinsic to all sections of this Code are the precepts
that judges, individually and collectively, must respect and honor the
judicial office as a public trust and strive to enhance and maintain
confidence in our legal system. The judge is an arbiter of facts and law
for the resolution of disputes and a highly visible symbol of government
under the rule of law.
The Code of Judicial Conduct is intended to establish standards for
ethical conduct of judges. It consists of broad statements called Canons,
specific rules set forth in Sections under each Canon, a Terminology
Section, an Application Section, and Comments. The text of the Canons and
the Sections, including the Terminology and Application Sections, is
authoritive. The use of permissive language in various sections of the Code
does not relieve judges from the other requirements of the Code that apply
to specific conduct. The Comments provide explanation and guidance with
respect to the purpose and meaning of the Canons and Sections. The Comments
are not intended as a statement of additional rules nor as a basis for
The Canons and Sections are rules of reason. They should be applied
consistent with constitutional requirements, statutes, other court rules
and decisional law and in the context of all relevant circumstances. The
Code is to be construed so as not to impinge on the independence of judges
which is essential in making judicial decisions.
The Code is designed to provide guidance to judges and candidates for
judicial office and to provide a structure for regulating conduct through
disciplinary agencies. It is not designed or intended as a basis for civil
liability or criminal prosecution. Furthermore, the purpose of the Code
would be subverted if the Code were invoked by lawyers for mere tactical
advantage in a proceeding.
The text of the Canons and Sections is intended to govern conduct of
judges and to be binding upon them. It is not intended, however, that every
transgression will result in disciplinary action. Whether disciplinary
action is appropriate, and the degree of discipline to be imposed, should
be determined through a reasonable and reasoned application of the text and
should depend on such factors as the seriousness of the transgression,
whether the activity was inadvertent, unintentional or based on a
reasonable but mistaken interpretation of obligations under the Code,
whether there is a pattern of improper activity and the effect of the
improper activity on others or on the judicial system.
The Code of Judicial Conduct is not intended as an exhaustive guide for
the conduct of judges. They should also be governed in their judicial and
personal conduct by general ethical standards. The Code is intended,
however, to state basic standards which should govern the conduct of all
judges and to provide guidance to assist judges in establishing and
maintaining high standards of judicial and personal conduct.
[Preamble amended effective July 1, 1974; April 11, 1986; March
25, 1988; June 23, 1995.]
CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT (CJC)
"Appropriate authority" denotes the authority with responsibility for
initiation of disciplinary process with respect to the violation to be
reported. See Sections 3(C)(1) and 3(C)(2).
"Candidate" is a person seeking election to judicial office. A person
becomes a candidate for judicial office as soon as he or she makes a public
announcement of candidacy, declares or files as a candidate with the
election authority, or authorizes solicitation or acceptance of
contributions or support. See Preamble and Sections 7(A) and 7(B).
"Court personnel" does not include the lawyers in a proceeding before a
judge. See Sections 3(A)(7)(c) and 3(A)(9).
"De minimis" denotes an insignificant interest that could not raise
reasonable question as to a judge's impartiality. See Section 3(E).
"Economic interest" denotes ownership of a more than de minimis legal
or equitable interest, or a relationship as officer, director, advisor or
other active participant in the affairs of a party, except that:
(i) ownership of an interest in a mutual or common investment fund that
holds securities is not an economic interest in such securities unless the
judge participates in the management of the fund or a proceeding pending or
impending before the judge could substantially affect the value of the
(ii) service by a judge as an officer, director, advisor or other
active participant in an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or
civic organization, or service by a judge's spouse, parent or child as an
officer, director, advisor or other active participant in any organization
does not create an economic interest in securities held by that
(iii) a deposit in a financial institution, the proprietary interest of
a policy holder in a mutual insurance company, of a depositor in a mutual
savings association or of a member in a credit union, or a similar
proprietary interest, is not an economic interest in the organization
unless a proceeding pending or impending before the judge could
substantially affect the value of the interest;
(iv) ownership of government securities is not an economic interest in
the issuer unless a proceeding pending or impending before the judge could
substantially affect the value of the securities. See Sections 3(D)(1)(d)
"Fiduciary" includes such relationships as executor, administrator,
trustee, and guardian. See Sections 3(D)(2) and 5(D).
"Knowingly," "knowledge," "known" or "knows" denotes actual knowledge
of the fact in question. See Sections 3(C) and 3(D)(1).
"Member of the candidate's family" denotes a spouse, child, grandchild,
parent, grandparent or other relative or person with whom the candidate
maintains a close familial relationship. See Sections 7(B)(1)(a) and
"Member of the judge's family" denotes a spouse, child, grandchild,
parent, grandparent, or other relative or person with whom the judge
maintains a close familial relationship. See Sections 5(D) and 5(F).
"Member of the judge's family residing in the judge's household"
denotes any relative of a judge by blood or marriage, or a person treated
by a judge as a member of the judge's family, who resides in the judge's
household. See Sections 3(D)(1) and 5(C)(5).
"Part-time judges." Part-time judges are judges who serve on a
continuing or periodic basis, but are permitted by law to devote time to
some other profession or occupation and whose compensation for that reason
is less than a full-time judge. See Application Section (A)(1).
"Political organization." Political organization denotes a political
party or other group, the principal purpose of which is to further the
election or appointment of candidates to political office or to support or
oppose a ballot measure except those concerning the law, the legal system,
and the administration of justice. See Sections 7(A)(1) and 7(A)(2).
"Pro tempore judges." Pro tempore judges are persons who are appointed
to act temporarily as judges. See Application Section (A)(2).
"Require." The rules prescribing that a judge "require" certain conduct
of others are, like all of the rules in this Code, rules of reason. The use
of the term "require" in that context means a judge is to exercise
reasonable direction and control over the conduct of those persons subject
to the judge's direction and control. See Sections 3(A)(3), 3(A)(5),
3(A)(6), 3(A)(9) and 3(B)(2).
[Adopted effective June 23, 1995; amended effective November 7,1995.]
CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT (CJC)
APPLICATION OF THE CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT
(A) Anyone, whether or not a lawyer, who is an officer of a judicial
system and who performs judicial functions, including an officer such as a
magistrate, court commissioner, special master or referee, is a judge
within the meaning of this Code. All judges should comply with this Code
except as provided below.
(1) A Part-Time Judge
(a) is not required to comply:
(i) except while serving as a judge, with Section 3(A)(9); and
(ii) at any time with Sections 5(C)(2) and (3), 5(D), 5(E), 5(F), 5(G)
(b) should not act as a lawyer in a proceeding in which the judge has
served as a judge or in any other proceeding related thereto.
When a person who has been a part-time judge is no longer a part-time
judge, that person may act as a lawyer in a proceeding in which he or she
has served as a judge or in any other proceeding related thereto only with
the express consent of all parties pursuant to the Rules of Professional
(2) A Pro Tempore Judge
(a) is not required to comply:
(i) except while serving as a judge, with Section 2(A), 2(B), 3(A)(9),
4(B), 4(C) and 7(A);
(ii) at any time with Sections 2(C), 5(B), 5(C)(2), 5(C)(3), 5(C)(4),
5(D), 5(E), 5(F), 5(G) and 6(C).
(b) A person who has been a pro tempore judge should not act as a
lawyer in a proceeding in which the judge has served as a judge or in any
other proceeding related thereto except as otherwise permitted by the Rules
of Professional Conduct.
(B) Time for Compliance. Persons to whom this Code becomes applicable
should arrange their affairs as soon as reasonably possible to comply with
[Adopted effective June 23, 1995.]
Application of the Code of Judicial Conduct
Canon 1 Judges Shall Uphold the Integrity and Independence of the
Canon 2 Judges Should Avoid Impropriety and the Apearance of Impropriety
in All Their Activities
Canon 3 Judges Shall Perform the Duties of Their Office Impartially and
Canon 4 Judges May Engage in Activities To Improve the Law, the Legal
System and the Administration of Justice
Canon 5 Judges Shall Regulate Their Extrajudicial Activities to Minimize
the Risk of Conflict With Their Judicial Duties
Canon 6 Judges Shall Regularly File Reports of Compensation Received for
Quasi-Judicial and Extrajudicial Activities
Canon 7 Judges Shall Refrain From Political Activity Inappropriate to
Their Judicial Office
CANON 1--JUDGES SHALL UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY AND
INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY
An independent and honorable judiciary is indispensable to justice in
our society. Judges should participate in establishing, maintaining, and
enforcing high standards of judicial conduct and shall personally observe
those standards so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary
will be preserved. The provisions of this code are to be construed and
applied to further that objective.
Deference to the judgments and rulings of courts depends upon public
confidence in the integrity and independence of judges. The integrity and
independence of judges depends in turn upon their acting without fear or
favor. Although judges should be independent, they must comply with the
law, including the provisions of this Code. Public confidence in the
impartiality of the judiciary is maintained by the adherence of each judge
to this responsibility. Conversely, violation of this Code diminishes
public confidence in the judiciary and thereby does injury to the system of
government under law.
[Canon 1 amended effective March 25, 1988; June 23, 1995 and
Comment adopted June 23, 1995.]
CANON 2--JUDGES SHOULD AVOID IMPROPRIETY AND THE
APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY IN ALL
(A) Judges should respect and comply with the law and act at all times
in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and
impartiality of the judiciary.
(B) Judges should not allow family, social, or other relationships to
influence their judicial conduct or judgment. Judges should not lend the
prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge
or others; nor should judges convey or permit others to convey the
impression that they are in a special position to influence them. Judges
should not testify voluntarily as character witnesses.
Maintaining the prestige of judicial office is essential to a system of
government in which the judiciary functions independently of the executive
and legislative branches. Respect for the judicial office facilitates the
orderly conduct of legitimate judicial functions. Judges should distinguish
between proper and improper use of the prestige of office in all of their
The testimony of judges as character witnesses injects the prestige of
their office into the proceeding in which they testify and may be
misunderstood to be an official testimonial. This canon, however, does not
afford judges a privilege against testifying in response to a subpoena.
(C) Judges should not hold membership in any organization practicing
discrimination prohibited by law.
[Canon 2 and Comment amended effective March 25, 1988; June 23, 1995.]
CANON 3--JUDGES SHALL PERFORM THE DUTIES
OF THEIR OFFICE IMPARTIALLY
The judicial duties of judges should take precedence
over all other activities. Their judicial duties include
all the duties of office prescribed by law. In the
performance of these duties, the following standards apply:
(A) Adjudicative Responsibilities.
(1) Judges should be faithful to the law and maintain
professional competence in it, and comply with the
continuing judicial education requirements of GR 26.
Judges should be unswayed by partisan interests, public
clamor, or fear of criticism.
(2) Judges should maintain order and decorum in
proceedings before them.
(3) Judges should be patient, dignified, and courteous
to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, and others with
whom judges deal in their official capacity, and should
require similar conduct of lawyers, and of the staff, court
officials, and others subject to their direction and control.
The duty to hear all proceedings fairly and with
patience is not inconsistent with the duty to dispose
promptly of the business of the court. Courts can be
efficient and businesslike while being patient and deliberate.
(4) Judges should accord to every person who is legally
interested in a proceeding, or that person's lawyer, full
right to be heard according to law, and, except as
authorized by law, neither initiate nor consider ex parte
or other communications concerning a pending or impending
proceeding. Judges, however, may obtain the advice of a
disinterested expert on the law applicable to a proceeding
before them, by amicus curiae only, if they afford the
parties reasonable opportunity to respond.
The proscription against communications concerning a
proceeding includes communications from lawyers, law
teachers, and other persons who are not participants in the
proceeding, except to the limited extent permitted. It does
not preclude judges from consulting with other judges, or
with court personnel whose function is to aid judges in
carrying out their adjudicative responsibilities. An
appropriate and often desirable procedure for a court to
obtain the advice of a disinterested expert on legal issues
obtain the advice of a disinterested expert on legal issues
is to invite the expert to file a brief amicus curiae.
(5) Judges shall perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice.
A judge must perform judicial duties impartially and
fairly. A judge who manifests bias on any basis in a
proceeding impairs the fairness of the proceeding and
brings the judiciary into disrepute.
(6) Judges should dispose promptly of the business of the court.
Prompt disposition of the courts business requires
judges to devote adequate time to their duties, to be
punctual in attending court and expeditious in determining
matters under submission, and to insist that court
officials, litigants and their lawyers cooperate with them
to that end.
(7) Judges shall not, while a proceeding is pending or
impending in any court, make any public comment that might
reasonably be expected to affect its outcome or impair its
fairness or make any nonpublic comment that might
substantially interfere with a fair trial or hearing. The
judge shall require similar abstention on the part of court
personnel subject to the judge's direction and control.
This section does not prohibit judges from making public
statements in the course of their official duties or from
explaining for public information the procedures of the
court. This section does not apply to proceedings in which
the judge is a litigant in a personal capacity.
(8) Judges shall not commend or criticize jurors for
their verdict other than in a court order or opinion in a
proceeding, but may express appreciation to jurors for
their service to the judicial system and the community.
Commending or criticizing jurors for their verdict may
imply a judicial expectation in future cases and may impair
a juror's ability to be fair and impartial in a subsequent case.
(B) Administrative Responsibilities.
(1) Judges should diligently discharge their
administrative responsibilities, maintain professional
competence in judicial administration, and facilitate the
performance of the administrative responsibilities of other
judges and court officials.
(2) Judges should require their staff and court
officials subject to their direction and control to observe
the standards of fidelity and diligence that apply to them.
(3) Judges should not make unnecessary appointments.
They should exercise their power of appointment only on the
basis of merit, avoiding nepotism and favoritism. They
should not approve compensation of appointees beyond the
fair value of services rendered.
Appointees of the judge include officials such as
referees, commissioners, special masters, receivers,
guardians and personnel such as clerks, secretaries, and
bailiffs. Consent by the parties to an appointment or an
award of compensation does not relieve the judge of the
obligation prescribed by this subsection.
(C) Disciplinary Responsibilities.
(1) Judges having actual knowledge that another judge
has committed a violation of this Code should take
appropriate action. Judges having actual knowledge that
another judge has committed a violation of this Code that
raises a substantial question as to the other judge's
fitness for office should take or initiate appropriate
corrective action, which may include informing the
(2) Judges having actual knowledge that a lawyer has
committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct
should take appropriate action. Judges having actual
knowledge that a lawyer has committed a violation of the
Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial
questions as to the lawyer's fitness as a lawyer should
take or initiate appropriate corrective action, which may
include informing the appropriate authority.
(1) Judges should disqualify themselves in a proceeding
in which their impartiality might reasonably be questioned,
including but not limited to instances in which:
(a) the judge has a personal bias or prejudice
concerning a party, or personal knowledge of disputed
evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding;
(b) the judge previously served as a lawyer or was a
material witness in the matter in controversy, or a lawyer
with whom the judge previously practiced law served during
such association as a lawyer concerning the matter, or such
lawyer has been a material witness concerning it;
(c) the judge knows that, individually or as a
fiduciary, the judge or the judge's spouse or member of the
judge's family residing in the judge's household, has an
economic interest in the subject matter in controversy or
in a party to the proceeding, or is an officer, director or
trustee of a party or has any other interest that could be
substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding,
unless there is a remittal of disqualification;
(d) the judge or the judge's spouse or member of the
judge's family residing in the judge's household, or the
spouse of such a person:
(i) is a party to the proceeding, or an officer,
director, or trustee of a party;
(ii) is acting as a lawyer in the proceeding;
(iii) is to the judge's knowledge likely to be a
material witness in the proceeding.
The fact that a lawyer in a proceeding is affiliated
with a law firm with which a lawyer-relative of the judge
is affiliated does not of itself disqualify the judge.
Under appropriate circumstances, the fact that "their
impartiality might reasonably be questioned" under Canon
3(D)(1), or that the lawyer-relative is known by the judge
to have an interest in the law firm that could be
"substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding"
may require the judge's disqualification.
(2) Judges should inform themselves about their
personal and fiduciary economic interests, and make a
reasonable effort to inform themselves about the personal
economic interests of their spouse and minor children
residing in their household.
(E) Remittal of Disqualification.
A judge disqualified by the terms of Canon 3(D)(1)(c)
or Canon 3(D)(1)(d) may, instead of withdrawing from the
proceeding, disclose on the record the basis of the
disqualification. If, based on such disclosure, the parties
and lawyers, independently of the judge's participation,
all agree in writing or on the record that the judge's
relationship is immaterial or that the judge's economic
interest is de minimis, the judge is no longer
disqualified, and may participate in the proceeding. When a
party is not immediately available, the judge may proceed
on the assurance of the lawyer that the party's consent
will be subsequently given.
[Canon 3 amended effective September 20, 1976; September 1,
1983; Canon 3 and Comments amended effective March 25,
1988; Canon 3 amended effective December 27, 1991; Canon 3
and Comments amended effective June 23, 1995; Canon 3
amended effective July 1, 2002.]
CANON 4--JUDGES MAY ENGAGE IN ACTIVITIES TO IMPROVE
THE LAW, THE LEGAL SYSTEM AND THE
ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
Judges, subject to the proper performance of their judicial duties, may
engage in the following quasi-judicial activities, if in doing so they do
not cast doubt on their capacity to decide impartially any issue that may
come before them:
(A) They may speak, write, lecture, teach, and participate in other
activities concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of
(B) They may appear at a public hearing before an executive or
legislative body or official on matters concerning the law, the legal
system, and the administration of justice, and they may otherwise consult
with an executive or legislative body or official, but only on matters
concerning the administration of justice.
(C) Judges may serve as members, officers, or directors of an
organization or governmental agency devoted to the improvement of the law,
the legal system, or the administration of justice. They may assist such an
organization in raising funds and may participate in their management and
investment, but should not personally solicit contributions from the
public. They may attend fund raising activities. They may make
recommendations to public and private fund granting agencies on projects
and programs concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration
As judicial officers and persons specially learned in the law, judges
are in a unique position to contribute to the improvement of the law, the
legal system, and the administration of justice, including revision of
substantive and procedural law and improvement of criminal and juvenile
justice. To the extent that their time permits, they are encouraged to do
so, either independently or through a bar association, judicial conference,
or other organization dedicated to the improvement of the law.
Use of an organization's letterhead for fund raising or membership
solicitation is permissible provided the letterhead lists only the judge's
name and position in the organization, and if comparable designations are
listed for other persons.
Judges must not be speakers or guests of honor at an organization's
fund raising event, but attendance at such an event is permissible if
otherwise consistent with this Code. Judges may pay to attend an
organization's fund raising event.
Extrajudicial activities are governed by Canon 5.
[Canon 4 and Comment amended effective March 25, 1988; June 23, 1995.] CANON 5--JUDGES SHALL REGULATE THEIR EXTRAJUDICIAL
ACTIVITIES TO MINIMIZE THE RISK OF CONFLICT
WITH THEIR JUDICIAL DUTIES
(A) Avocational Activities. Judges may write, lecture, teach,
and speak on nonlegal subjects, and engage in the arts,
sports, and other social and recreational activities, if
such avocational activities do not detract from the dignity
of their office or interfere with the performance of their
Complete separation of judges from extrajudicial activities is
neither possible nor wise; they should not become isolated from
the society in which they live.
(B) Civic and Charitable Activities. Judges may participate in
civic and charitable activities that do not reflect
adversely upon their impartiality or interfere with the
performance of their judicial duties. Judges may serve as
officers, directors, trustees, or nonlegal advisors of an
educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic
organization not conducted for the economic or political
advantage of its members, subject to the following
(1) Judges should not serve if it is likely that the
organization will be engaged in proceedings that would
ordinarily come before them or will be regularly
engaged in adversary proceedings in this state's courts.
The changing nature of some organizations and of their
relationship to the law makes it necessary for judges to
reexamine regularly the activities of each organization with
which they are affiliated to determine if it is proper for them
to continue their relationship with it. For example, in many
jurisdictions charitable hospitals are now more frequently in
court than in the past.
(2) Judges should not use the prestige of t heir office to
solicit contributions for any educational, religious,
charitable, fraternal, or civic organization, but they
may be listed as officers, directors, or trustees of
such an organization. They should not be speakers or
the guest of honor at an organization's fund raising
events, but they may attend such events.
(C) Financial Activities.
(1) Judges should refrain from financial and business
dealings that tend to reflect adversely on their
impartiality, interfere with the proper performance of
their judicial duties or exploit their judicial position.
(2) Judges should not involve themselves in frequent
business transactions with lawyers or persons likely to
come before the court on which they serve.
(3) Subject to the requirements of Canon 5(C)(1) and (2),
judges may hold and manage investments, including real
estate, and engage in other remunerative activity, but
should not serve as officers, directors, managers,
advisor or employees of any business.
See Application of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Section (B).
(4) Judges should manage their investments and other
financial interests to minimize the number of cases in
which they are disqualified. As soon as they can do so
without serious financial detriment, they should divest
themselves of investments and other financial interests
that might require frequent disqualification.
(5) Judges should not accept, and should urge members of
their families residing in their households not to
accept a gift, bequest, favor or loan from anyone
except as follows:
(a) judges may accept a gift incident to a public
testimonial to them; books supplied by publishers
on a complimentary basis for official use; or an
invitation to judges and their spouses to attend a
bar-related function or activity devoted to the
improvement of the law, the legal system or the
administration of justice;
(b) judges or members of their families residing in
their households may accept ordinary social
hospitality; a gift, bequest, favor, or loan from
a relative; a wedding or engagement gift; a loan
from a lending institution in its regular course
of business on the same terms generally available
to persons who are not judges; or a scholarship or
fellowship awarded on the same terms applied to
(c) judges or members of their families residing in
their households may accept any other gift,
bequest, favor or loan only if the donor is not a
party or other person whose interests have come or
are likely to come before the judge, and the judge
reports it in the same manner as compensation is
reported in Canon 6(C).
This canon does not apply to contributions to a judge's campaign
for judicial office, a matter governed by Canon 7.
(6) Judges are not required by this code to disclose their
income, debts, or investments, except as provided in
this canon and Canons 3 and 6 or as otherwise required
Canon 3 requires judges to disqualify themselves in any
proceeding in which they have a financial interest, however
small; Canon 5 requires judges to refrain from engaging in
business and from financial activities that might interfere with
the impartial performance of their judicial duties; Canon 6
requires judges to report all compensation they receive for
activities outside their judicial office. Judges have the rights
of ordinary citizens, including the right to privacy of their
financial affairs, except to the extent that limitations thereon
are required to safeguard the proper performance of their duties.
Owning and receiving income from investments do not as such
affect the performance of a judge's duties.
(7) Information acquired by judges in their judicial
capacity should not be used or disclosed by them in
financial dealings or for any other purpose not related
to their judicial duties.
(8) Subject to the limitations and requirements of Canon 6,
judges may accept compensation and reimbursement of
expenses for the solemnization of marriages, performed
outside of regular court hours, pursuant to RCW 26.04.050.
(D) Fiduciary Activities. Judges shall not serve as executors,
administrators, trustees, guardians or other fiduciaries,
except for the estate, trust or person of members of their
families, and then only if such service will not interfere
with the proper performance of their judicial duties. As
family fiduciaries judges are subject to the following restrictions:
(1) Judges shall not serve if it is likely that as a
fiduciary they will be engaged in proceedings that
would ordinarily come before them, or if the estate,
trust, or ward becomes involved in adversary
proceedings in the court on which they serve or one
under its appellate jurisdiction.
(2) While acting as a fiduciary, judges are subject to the
same restrictions on financial activities that apply to
them in their personal capacities.
Judges' obligations under this canon and their obligations as a
fiduciary may come into conflict. For example, judges should
resign as trustees if it would result in detriment to the trust
to divest it of holdings whose retention would place the judge in
violation of Canon 5(C)(4).
(E) Arbitration. Judges should not act as arbitrators or
mediators or otherwise perform judicial functions in a
private capacity unless expressly authorized by law.
(F) Practice of Law. Judges shall not practice law.
Notwithstanding this prohibition, judges may act pro se and
may, without compensation, give legal advice to and draft or
review documents for members of their families.
(G) Extrajudicial Appointments. Judges should not accept
appointment to a governmental committee, commission or other
position that is concerned with issues of fact or policy on
matters other than the improvement of the law, the legal
system or the administration of justice. Judges, however,
may represent their country, state or locality on ceremonial
occasions or in connection with historical, educational and
Valuable services have been rendered in the past to the states
and the nation by judges appointed by the executive to undertake
important extrajudicial assignments. The appropriateness of
conferring these assignments on judges must be reassessed,
however, in light of the demands on the judiciary created by
today's crowded dockets and the need to protect the courts from
involvement in extrajudicial matters that may prove to be
controversial. Judges should not be expected or permitted to
accept governmental appointments that could interfere with the
efficiency, effectiveness and independence of the judiciary.
[Canon 5 amended effective September 1, 1985; Canon 5 and
Comments amended effective March 25, 1988; June 23, 1995.]
CANON 6--JUDGES SHALL REGULARLY FILE REPORTS
OF COMPENSATION RECEIVED FOR QUASI-JUDICIAL
AND EXTRAJUDICIAL ACTIVITIES
Judges may receive compensation and reimbursement of expenses for the
quasi-judicial and extrajudicial activities permitted by this code, if the
source of such payments does not give the appearance of influencing the
judges in their judicial duties or otherwise give the appearance of
impropriety, subject to the following restrictions:
(A) Compensation. Compensation shall not exceed a reasonable amount nor
shall it exceed what a person who is not a judge would receive for the same
(B) Expense Reimbursement. Expense reimbursement should be limited to
the actual cost of travel, food and lodging reasonably incurred by the
judge and, where appropriate to the occasion, by the judge's spouse. Any
payment in excess of such an amount is compensation.
(C) Public Reports. A judge shall make such financial disclosures as
required by law.
The Code does not prohibit judges from accepting honoraria or speaking
fees provided that the compensation is reasonable and commensurate with the
task performed. Judges should ensure, however, that no conflicts are
created by the arrangement. Judges must not appear to trade on their
judicial position for personal advantage. Judges should not spend
significant time away from court duties to meet speaking or writing
commitments for compensation. In addition, the source of the payments must
not raise any question of undue influence or the judges' ability or
willingness to be impartial.
[Canon 6 amended effective September 1, 1983; March 25,1988;
Canon 6 amended and Comment adopted effective June 23, 1995.]
CANON 7--JUDGES SHALL REFRAIN FROM POLITICAL ACTIVITY
INAPPROPRIATE TO THEIR JUDICIAL OFFICE
(A) Political Conduct in General.
(1) Judges or candidates for election to judicial office shall not:
(a) act as leaders or hold any office in a political organization;
(b) make speeches for a political organization or nonjudicial candidate
or publicly endorse a nonjudicial candidate for public office;
(c) solicit funds for or pay an assessment or make a contribution to a
political organization or nonjudicial candidate;
(d) attend political functions sponsored by political organizations or
purchase tickets for political party dinners or other functions, except as
authorized by Canon 7(A)(2);
(e) identify themselves as members of a political party, except as
necessary to vote in an election;
(f) contribute to a political party, a political organization or
(2) During judicial campaigns, judges or candidates for election to
judicial office may attend political gatherings, including functions
sponsored by political organizations, and speak to such gatherings on their
own behalf or that of another judicial candidate.
(3) Judges may contribute to, but shall not solicit funds for another
(4) Judges shall resign from office when they become candidates either
in a primary or in a general election for a nonjudicial office, except that
they may continue to hold office while being a candidate for election to or
serving as a delegate in a state constitutional convention, if they are
otherwise permitted by law to do so.
See State ex rel. Reynolds v. Howell, 70 Wash. 467, 126 P. 954 (1912)
and State ex rel. Chandler v. Howell, 104 Wash. 99, 175 P. 569 (1918).
(5) Judges should not engage in any other political activity except on
behalf of measures to improve the law, the legal system or the
administration of justice.
(B) Campaign Conduct.
(1) Candidates, including an incumbent judge, for a judicial office:
(a) should maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office, and
should encourage members of their families to adhere to the same standards
of political conduct that apply to them;
(b) should prohibit public officials or employees subject to their
direction or control from doing for them what they are prohibited from
doing under this canon; and except to the extent authorized under Canon
7(B)(2) or (B)(3), they should not allow any other person to do for them
what they are prohibited from doing under this canon;
(c) should not
(i) make pledges or promises of conduct in office other than the
faithful and impartial performance of the duties of the office;
(ii) make statements that commit or appear to commit the candidate with
respect to cases, controversies or issues that are likely to come before
the court; or
(iii) knowingly misrepresent the identity, qualifications, present
position or other fact concerning the candidate or an opponent.
Section 7(B)(1)(c) prohibits a candidate for judicial office from
making statements that appear to commit the candidate regarding cases,
controversies or issues likely to come before the court. As a corollary, a
candidate should emphasize in any public statement the candidate's duty to
uphold the law regardless of his or her personal views. See also Section
3(A)(6), the general rule on public comment by judges. Section 7(B)(1)(c)
does not prohibit a candidate from making pledges or promises respecting
improvements in court administration. Nor does this Section prohibit an
incumbent judge from making private statements to other judges or court
personnel in the performance of judicial duties. This Section applies to
any statement made in the process of securing judicial office.
(2) Candidates, including incumbent judges, for a judicial office that
is filled by public election between competing candidates shall not
personally solicit or accept campaign contributions. They may establish
committees of responsible persons to secure and manage campaign funds and
to obtain public statements of support. Such committees may solicit
campaign contributions and public support from lawyers and others.
Candidates' committees may solicit contributions no earlier than 120 days
from the date when filing for that office is first permitted and no later
than 60 days after the final election in which the candidate participated.
Candidates shall not use or permit the use of campaign contributions for
the private benefit of themselves or members of their families. Candidates
shall comply with all laws requiring public disclosure of campaign
finances, which may require knowledge of campaign contributions. When an
unsolicited contribution is delivered directly to the candidate, receipt
and prompt delivery of the contribution to the appropriate campaign
official is not prohibited.
Although campaign contributions of which a judge has knowledge are not
prohibited, these contributions may be relevant to recusal.
(3) An incumbent judge who is a candidate for office without a
competing candidate may obtain public support and campaign contributions in
the manner provided in Canon 7(B)(2).
[Canon 7 amended effective September 1, 1983; January 18,1985;
March 25, 1988; Canon 7 amended and Comments adopted
effective June 23, 1995.]
C O N F I D E N T I A LState of Washington
Commission on Judicial Conduct
P. O. Box 1817
Olympia, WA 98507
(360) 753 - 4585 Voice or TDDCOMPLAINT FORMThis form is designed to provide the Commission with information required to make an initial
evaluation of your complaint, and to begin an investigation of the allegations you make. Please
read the accompanying materials on the Commission's function and procedures before you
complete this form.
duplicated for you. If you need to maintain a record, keep a copy. Also, do not send
records you wish to keep, such as original documents, without making prior arrangements
for their loan and their safe delivery and return.Materials filed in the Commission’s confidential records cannot bePLEASE TYPE OR PRINT ALL INFORMATIONYour Name
City State Zip Code
Daytime telephone Evening telephone
Name of Judge
Case Name and Docket Number, if applicable
If this complaint relates to a trial or other court proceeding, has it been or will it be appealed?
Yes No Not applicable
Please state briefly the general nature of your complaint. (If you wish, you may refer to the Code of Judicial
Conduct which you can find in the Washington Court Rules.)
Please state specific facts to support your allegation(s) of judicial misconduct. Include all pertinent dates,
and name(s) of persons present, if known. Attach
position. Attach additional sheets if the space provided below is not sufficient.
Please return this completed form to: Commission on Judicial Conduct
P. O. Box 1817
Olympia, Washington 98507copies of any documents which may support your[If you have a disability which requires assistance in filing a complaint or you would like this form in an
alternate format, such as Braille, large print, or taped material, contact this office at (360) 753-4585 voice
or TDD. We will take reasonable steps to accommodate your needs.]
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