The Commission on Judicial Performance, established in 1960, is the independent state agency responsible for investigating complaints of judicial misconduct and judicial incapacity and for disciplining judges, pursuant to article VI, section 18 of the California Constitution.
The commission’s mandate is to protect the public, enforce rigorous standards of judicial conduct and maintain public confidence in the integrity and independence of the judicial system. While the majority of California’s judges are committed to maintaining the high standards expected of the judiciary, an effective method of disciplining judges who engage in misconduct is essential to the functioning of our judicial system. Commission proceedings provide a fair and appropriate mechanism to preserve the integrity of the judicial process.
The commission’s jurisdiction includes all judges of California’s superior courts and the justices of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. The commission also has jurisdiction over former judges for conduct prior to retirement or resignation. Additionally, the commission shares authority with the superior courts for the oversight of court commissioners and referees. The Director-Chief Counsel of the commission is designated as the Supreme Court’s investigator for complaints involving the judges of the State Bar Court. The commission does not have authority over federal judges, judges pro tem or private judges. In addition to its disciplinary function, the commission is responsible for handling judges’ applications for disability retirement.
The commission’s authority is limited to investigating allegations of judicial misconduct and, if warranted, imposing discipline. Judicial misconduct usually involves conduct in conflict with the standards set forth in the Code of Judicial Ethics. The commission cannot change a decision made by any judicial officer; this is a function of the state’s appellate courts. After investigation, and in some cases a public hearing, the commission may impose sanctions ranging from confidential discipline to removal from office.
LAST UPDATED: 2/2/17.
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