Subordinate Judicial Officers – Statistics

Since June of 1998, the commission has shared authority with the superior courts for the discipline of subordinate judicial officers (SJO’s), attorneys employed by California’s state courts to serve as court commissioners and referees. In 2020, there were 250 authorized subordinate judicial officer positions in California.

Subordinate Judicial Officers – Authorized Positions
As of December 31, 2020

  • Court Commissioners240
  • Court Referees10
  • Total250


2020 Statistics

Complaints Received and Investigated

In 2020, the commission reviewed 80 new complaints about subordinate judicial officers. Because the superior courts were required to conduct the initial investigations, the commission’s function primarily entailed reviewing the local courts’ actions to determine whether there was any basis for further investigation or action by the commission.

Rule Under which New Complaints Were Submitted

  • Rule 109(c)(1) appeal from local court’s disposition57
  • Rule 109(c)(2) at the request of a local court2
  • Rule 109(c)(3) notification by local court of disciplin0
  • Rule 109(c)(4) notification by local court of resignation with
  • investigation pending1
  • Rule 109(c)(5) subordinate judicial officer retires or resigns
  • before court receives complaint4


2020 Caseload – Subordinate Judicial Officers

  • Cases Pending 1/1/203
  • New Complaints Considered64
  • Cases Concluded66
  • Cases Pending 12/31/201

Discrepancies in totals are due to consolidated complaints/dispositions.


In 2020, the commission commenced one preliminary investigation.

Cases Concluded

In 2020, the commission concluded its review of 66 complaints involving subordinate judicial officers. The commission closed 63 of these matters after initial review because it determined that the superior courts’ handling and disposition of the complaints were adequate and that no further proceedings were warranted. Following investigation, the commission imposed one private admonishment and closed two cases without discipline.

At the end of the year, one matter remained pending before the commission.

2020 SJO Complaint Dispositions

      • Total complaint dispositions66
      • Closed after initial review63
      • After independent investigation by the commission:
      • Private Admonishment1
      • Closed without discipline2


Type of Court Case Underlying
SJO Complaints Concluded in 2020

  • Small Claims36%
  • Family Law33%
  • Traffic6%
  • General Civil11%
  • Criminal5%
  • All Others9%
  • (includes off-bench)


Source of Complaints Involving
SJO’s Concluded in 2020

  • Litigant/Family/Friend93%
  • Judge/Court Staff6%
  • Attorney1%
  • All Other Complainants0%
  • Source Other Than Complaint0%