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 2016, there were 251 authorized subordinate judicial officer positions in California.

Subordinate Judicial Officers – Authorized Positions
As of December 31, 2016

  • Court Commissioners233
  • Court Referees18
  • Total251


2016 Statistics

Complaints Received and Investigated

In 2016, the commission reviewed 96 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 disposition92
  • Rule 109(c)(2) at the request of a local court0
  • Rule 109(c)(3) notification by local court of discipline3
  • 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 complaint0


2016 Caseload – Subordinate Judicial Officers

  • Cases Pending 1/1/161
  • New Complaints Considered96
  • Cases Concluded95
  • Cases Pending 12/31/163

Discrepancies in totals are due to consolidated complaints/dispositions.


In 2016, the commission commenced two staff inquiries and four preliminary investigations.

Cases Concluded

In 2016, the commission concluded its review of 95 complaints involving subordinate judicial officers. The commission closed 90 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, issued one advisory letter, closed two of the cases without discipline, and closed one case after formal proceedings were instituted when the commissioner resigned with the agreement not to serve or seek to serve in a judicial capacity (Inquiry Concerning Commissioner Taylor Culver, No. 199). At the end of the year, three matters remained pending before the commission.

2016 SJO Complaint Dispositions

      • Total complaint dispositions95
      • Closed after initial review90
      • After independent investigation by the commission:
      • Private Admonishment1
      • Advisory Letter1
            • Closed Without Discipline2
            • Conditional Close Pursuant to Stipulation1


Type of Court Case Underlying
SJO Complaints Concluded in 2016

  • Small Claims39%
  • Family Law25%
  • Traffic15%
  • General Civil10%
  • Criminal1%
  • All Others10%
  • (includes anonymous letters, news reports)


Source of Complaints Involving
SJO’s Concluded in 2016

  • Litigant/Family/Friend91%
  • Judge/Court Staff3%
  • Attorney3%
  • All Other Complainants2%
  • Source Other Than Complaint1%