Judicial Discipline System Ignores Signs of Misconduct, Auditor Finds

The Commission on Judicial Performance, which is responsible for investigating and disciplining judges, “failed to pursue allegations thoroughly and ignored warning signs of ongoing misconduct,” the state auditor reported April 25.

“In about one-third of the cases we reviewed, investigators did not take all reasonable steps – interviewing witnesses, obtaining evidence, or observing the judges – to determine the existence or extent of alleged misconduct,” the auditor wrote.

Additionally, the auditor found that the commission “does not evaluate its complaint data to identify potential patterns of judicial misconduct that could merit investigation,” and that “commissioners are involved in both the investigatory and disciplinary functions, resulting in judges facing potential discipline from a body of commissioners that is privy to unfounded allegations of misconduct.”

“CJP’s reliance on judges to hear cases involving their peers falls short of the voters’ intent to increase the public’s role in judicial discipline with the passage of Proposition 190 in 1994,” the auditor concluded.

Additionally, the commission has not taken steps to improve its transparency and accessibility to the public. The auditor found that the commission never holds public meetings to discuss its rules or operations, and “has rarely directed its outreach activities toward members of the public – out of more than 120 events held during a five-year period, only three targeted the general public.” Also, the commission only accepts complaints submitted through the mail, and does not allow submissions through its website.

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