Confidential Disposition of Grievances

If any investigation reveals facts that warrant dismissal of the grievance based on lack of jurisdiction or as the allegations are found to be untrue or unprovable, it may be closed.  If the grievance has not been provided to the judge with a request for comment, the Commission provides a copy of the grievance to the judge upon closing the case.

After an investigation and opportunity for a judge to provide comments to the allegations, the Commission may determine that although there was no judicial misconduct, certain actions of the judge should preferably not be repeated. On those occasions, the Commission may dismiss the matter with a letter of explanation to the judge. If after an investigation and opportunity for comment by the judge, the Commission determines that improper or questionable conduct did occur, but it was relatively minor, the Commission will dismiss the case with a cautionary letter to the judge.  In those matters, the Commission will advise caution, or express disapproval, of the judge’s conduct.  Neither a cautionary letter nor a letter of explanation is a form of discipline.

The Commission may also dismiss a matter contingent upon the judge satisfying conditions imposed by the Commission, which may include a period of monitoring of the judge's conduct. The failure of the judge to satisfy the conditions may result in reinstatement of the grievance.

When conduct that is more troublesome is found, the Commission may issue an admonition.  That resolution is designed in part to bring problems to a judge’s attention at an early stage in the hope that the misconduct will not be repeated or escalate.  An admonition consists of a notice to the judge containing a description of the improper conduct and the conclusions reached by the Commission.  Upon receipt of an admonition, a judge has 28 days to file a petition for review by the Supreme Court.  The Executive Director has 14 days to respond.  The Supreme Court then reviews the matter, and any resulting opinion or order is published and has precedential value.

Explanatory letters, cautionary letters, and admonitions are confidential (unless an admonition is reviewed by the Supreme Court at the judge's request, as described above).  Due to the rules of confidentiality, the Commission and its staff ordinarily cannot advise anyone of the nature of the action taken.  An exception is that when the Commission issues an admonition or cautionary letter to resolve an investigation, it is permitted to advise the grievant that corrective action has been taken (without providing any explanation of that action).  Upon completion of an investigation that results in a straight dismissal, or the issuance of an explanatory letter, the grievant will simply be advised that the Commission has resolved the matter.  

Please note: Regardless of the resolution of the matter, the Commission will not return or photocopy materials that are provided to it by the grievant, or produce documents that are otherwise obtained in the course of the investigation process.  The grievant should  maintain copies of the materials submitted to the Commission.

For generalized summaries of the conduct which resulted in explanatory letters, cautionary letters, and admonishments for the most recent year available, please see the Annual Report (which can be accessed at the tab above).