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 2019, there were 288 authorized subordinate judicial officer positions in California.

Subordinate Judicial Officers – Authorized Positions
As of December 31, 2019

  • Court Commissioners270
  • Court Referees18
  • Total288


2019 Statistics

Complaints Received and Investigated

In 2019, 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 disposition72
  • Rule 109(c)(2) at the request of a local court1
  • Rule 109(c)(3) notification by local court of disciplin0
  • Rule 109(c)(4) notification by local court of resignation with
  • investigation pending3
  • Rule 109(c)(5) subordinate judicial officer retires or resigns
  • before court receives complaint4


2019 Caseload – Subordinate Judicial Officers

  • Cases Pending 1/1/192
  • New Complaints Considered80
  • Cases Concluded79
  • Cases Pending 12/31/193

Discrepancies in totals are due to consolidated complaints/dispositions.


In 2019, the commission commenced one staff inquiry and three preliminary investigations.

Cases Concluded

In 2019, the commission concluded its review of 79 complaints involving subordinate judicial officers. The commission closed 76 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 public censure, and two public admonishments.

At the end of the year, three matters remained pending before the commission.

2019 SJO Complaint Dispositions

      • Total complaint dispositions79
      • Closed after initial review76
      • After independent investigation by the commission:
      • Closed without discipline3


Type of Court Case Underlying
SJO Complaints Concluded in 2019

  • Small Claims39%
  • Family Law30%
  • Traffic7%
  • General Civil14%
  • Criminal4%
  • All Others6%
  • (includes off-bench)


Source of Complaints Involving
SJO’s Concluded in 2019

  • Litigant/Family/Friend91%
  • Judge/Court Staff6%
  • Attorney3%
  • All Other Complainants0%
  • Source Other Than Complaint0%