Active & Former Judges – Statistics
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).
Staff Inquiries and Preliminary Investigations
In 2020, the commission ordered 23 staff inquiries and 82 preliminary investigations.
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.
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.
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.
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.