Active & Former Judges – Statistics


New Complaints

In 2020, the commission considered 1,063 new complaints about active and former California judges. The 1,063 complaints named 1,320 judges (a total of 874 different judges).

2020 Caseload – Active & Former Judges

  • Cases Pending 1/1/20108
  • New Complaints Considered1,063
  • Cases Concluded1,050
  • Cases Pending 12/31/2090

Discrepancies in totals are due to consolidated complaints/dispositions.

 

Staff Inquiries and Preliminary Investigations

In 2020, the commission ordered 23 staff inquiries and 82 preliminary investigations.

Formal Proceedings

At the beginning of 2020, there were two formal proceedings pending before the commission: Inquiry Concerning Judge John T. Laettner, No. 203; and Inquiry Concerning Justice Jeffrey W. Johnson, No. 204.

In the Laettner matter, the commission issued a decision on November 6, 2019, but the time for the judge to file a petition for review in the California Supreme Court had not expired by the end of 2019. The judge filed a petition for review on February 3, 2020, which was denied by the California Supreme Court on June 10, 2020, and the judge filed a petition for writ of certiorari on November 24, 2020, which was denied by the United States Supreme Court on December 14, 2020.

In the Johnson matter, the commission issued a decision on June 2, 2020. The judge submitted a petition for review on August 31, 2020 in the California Supreme Court, which remained pending at the end of 2020.

During 2020, the commission commenced formal proceedings in one matter: Inquiry Concerning Judge Jeffrey G. Bennett, No. 206. The Bennett matter was concluded in 2020.

Formal Proceedings

  • Pending 1/1/202
  • 1Commenced in 2020
  • 2Concluded in 2020
  • Pending 12/31/201

 

Deferral of Investigation

The commission may defer an investigation under certain circumstances. At the beginning of 2020, 22 pending matters had been deferred. The commission ordered 11 matters deferred during 2020. Seven matters were returned to the commission’s active calendar, and were considered and concluded by the commission in 2020. Ten matters were returned to the active calendar and remained pending before the commission at the end of 2020. Seventeen matters remained deferred at the end of the year.

Reasons Investigations were deferred in 2020

  • Deferred pending resolution of underlying case8
  • Deferred pending appeal or other review2
  • Deferred pending civil, criminal or
  • administrative investigation or proceeding0
  • Deferred pending rule 112 monitoring0
  • Deferred pending mentoring1

 

Complaint Dispositions

The following case disposition statistics are based on cases completed by the commission in 2020, regardless of when the complaints were received. (Staff inquiries and preliminary investigations in the cases closed in 2020 may have commenced in prior years. Cases or portions of cases that were pending at the end of 2020 are not included in complaint disposition statistics for 2020.)

In 2020, the commission concluded a total of 1,050 cases. The average time period from the filing of a complaint to the disposition was 2.95 months. See chart of Complaint Dispositions for all cases completed by the commission in 2020.

Type of Court Case Underlying Complaints
Concluded in 2020

  • Criminal34%
  • General Civil20%
  • Family Law24%
  • Small Claims/Traffic6%
  • All Others11%

5% of the complaints did not arise out of court cases. These complaints concerned off-bench conduct, such as the handling of court administration and political activity.

 

Source of Complaints Concluded in 2020

  • Litigant/Family/Friend88%
  • Attorney5%
  • Judge/Court Staff2%
  • All Other Complainants3%
  • (including members of the public)
  • Source Other than Complaint2%
  • (includes anonymous letters, news reports)

 

Cases Closed Without Discipline

In 2020, after obtaining the information necessary to evaluate the complaints, the commission determined that there was not a sufficient showing of misconduct in 960 of the complaints. In other words, there was an absence of facts which, if true and not otherwise explained, might constitute misconduct. A substantial percentage alleged legal error not involving misconduct or expressed dissatisfaction with a judge’s decision. The commission closed these complaints without staff inquiry or preliminary investigation.

Following staff inquiry or preliminary investigation, the commission closed another 65 matters without discipline. In these cases, investigation showed that the allegations were unfounded or unprovable, or the judge gave an adequate explanation of the situation.

Cases Closed With Discipline

In 2020, the commission removed one judge, publicly censured one judge and imposed four public admonishments. The commission also issued nine private admonishments and nine advisory letters. See Public Discipline & Decisions and Private Discipline Summaries. Discipline has been categorized according to the Types of Misconduct. A chart of the Types of Conduct Resulting in Discipline indicates the number of times specific types of misconduct resulted in discipline in 2020.

Resignations and Retirements

The Constitution authorizes the commission to continue proceedings after a judge retires or resigns and, if warranted, to impose discipline upon the former judge. When a judge resigns or retires during proceedings, the commission determines whether to continue or close the case and, if the case is closed, whether to refer the matter to another entity such as the State Bar. In 2020, the commission closed one matter without discipline when the judge resigned or retired with an investigation pending.

10-Year Summary of Commission Activity

The 10-Year Summary of Commission Activity chart provides statistics on case actions by the commission over the last 10 years.