Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct
- The Commission has oversight on conduct of justices and judges of the Alaska Supreme Court, Alaska Court of Appeals, Alaska Superior Courts, and Alaska District Courts.
- The Commission does not have oversight on conduct of attorneys, federal judicial officers, magistrates, or masters.
Composition of the Commission
According to Article IV, Section 10 of the Alaska Constitution, the Commission consists of nine members: three judges, three lawyers, and three members of the public.
- The three judges are elected by the justices and judges of state courts.
- The three lawyers are nominated by the governing body of the state bar, appointed by the Governor, and confirmed by legislature. The lawyers must have practice law at least 10 year in the state.
- The three members of the public are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature. They may not be current or former judges, or members of the state bar.
- State statute dictates that all members have four year terms.
The Commission also has a small staff comprised of an executive director and an administrative assistant.
Members of the Court
A current list of the members can be found on the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct website.
Case flow description
The standard case flow for complaints filed with the Commission is as follows:
(Note: The flow chart on the right was patterned after a flow chart shown in the Calendar Year 2010 Activities Report of the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct.)
The Commission receives its powers through both state constitutional and statutory laws.
Article IV, Section 10 of the Alaska Constitution states:
|Commission on Judicial Conduct
The Commission on Judicial Conduct shall consist of nine members, as follows: three persons who are justices or judges of state courts, elected by the justices and judges of state courts; three members who have practiced law in this state for ten years, appointed by the governor from nominations made by the governing body of the organized bar and subject to confirmation by a majority of the members of the legislature in joint session; and three persons who are not judges, retired judges, or members of the state bar, appointed by the governor and subject to confirmation by a majority of the members of the legislature in joint session. In addition to being subject to impeachment under section 12 of this article, a justice or judge may be disqualified from acting as such and may be suspended, removed from office, retired, or censured by the supreme court upon the recommendation of the commission. The powers and duties of the commission and the bases for judicial disqualification shall be established by law.
State statutes regulating the Commission are found in Alaska Statutes: Chapter 22.30. Judicial Conduct. (Links to 2011 statutes)
Rules of Procedure
The Alaska Judicial Conduct Commission has 20 Rules of Procedure:
- 1 Organization of Commission
- 2 Functioning of Commission
- 3 Financial Arrangements for Commission
- 4 Duties of Executive Director
- 5 Confidentiality
- 6 Public Information
- 7 Initiation and Screening of Complaint
- 8 Notice
- 9 Formal Investigation
- 10 Subpoenas
- 11 Investigation Results; Commission Action
- 12 Pre-Hearing Discovery
- 13 Special Counsel
- 14 Formal Disciplinary Hearing
- 15 Commission Decision
- 16 Supreme Court Review
- 17 Cases Involving Mental or Physical Disability
- 18 Commission Member Disqualification; Proceeding Against Commission Member
- 19 Commission-Issued Advisory Opinions
- 20 Settlement Procedures
Rules of appeal
The rules of appeal for the Commission's review are found in Alaska Rules of Appellate Procedure: Rule 406. Review of Proceedings of Commission on Judicial Conduct.
The number of complaints filed by year with the Commission, both within and outside of its authority, are as follows:
Of these complaints, the majority are filed by litigants against district and superior court judges regarding dissatisfaction of case judgement. As a result, many of the complaints are dismissed after initial investigation due to lack of jurisdiction. For example, in 2011, of the 72 complaints filed, only 18 were found to be within the jurisdiction of the Commission.
Moreover, between 2006 and 2011, only six investigations resulted in "private censures, admonishments, reprimands and cautionary letters" and four investigations in "discipline recommended to the Alaska Supreme Court".
The Commission issues several types of opinions, including formal ethics opinions which are based on real cases that resulted in private informal action, and advisory opinions which answer various questions.
Formal ethics opinions
Between 1991 to 2011, the Commission issued 25 different formal ethics opinions on a variety of topics both in and out of the court. For example:
|“||Opinion #001: Judges who criticize jurors verbally, directly to them, for their work as jurors, violate Canons 2A and 3A (3) of the Code of Judicial Conduct.||”|
|“||Opinion #011: Judges who give speeches on general legal issues at political party fundraising events violate Canons 7A (1) (b) and (c) of the Code of Judicial Conduct.||”|
|“||Opinion #022: A judge who routinely provides care for or supervises the judge's child in chambers violates Canons 2 and 3 A by giving the appearance that the judge's non- emergency family duties are paramount over judicial duties during court hours.||”|
See the rest here
A number of advisory opinions from from 1997 onward are also available on the commission's website. For example:
|“|| Advisory Opinion #98-1 (adopted January 23, 1998)
Question: May a judge allow a state official of the executive or legislative branch to sit on the bench next to the judge or in-court clerk while observing court in session?
Opinion: Providing any preferential seating to visiting state officials that is not available to the general public while court is in session creates an appearance of impropriety in violation of Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. State officials hold positions of power within state government that, through the doctrine of separation of powers, is meant to be distinct from the role of state courts. Treating a state official differently from any other member of the public by giving that official preferential seating, creates the appearance to the average observer that the official has special access to the court and its decision-making. While state officials have a special interest in observing how the courts are run to assist in proper legislative or executive decision-making, any questions regarding the court process can be addressed to the judge in private outside of the official public court session. So too, special demonstrations of equipment can be arranged for private observation by state officials, separate from the official court proceeding or special seating arrangements can be provided to both the officials and the public generally to allow observation of court equipment during proceedings. Other special observers may not necessarily come under this opinion. Often school children tour the courts and are seated in special places, at times on the bench. Children are not in a position of power and, therefore, do not create an appearance of improper influence especially when their presence is explained to be for an educational purpose.
|1968||The Commission is established as the Commission on Judicial Qualifications by a constitutional amendment approved by state voters on August 27. The initial commission is composed of: one supreme court justice, three superior court judges, one district court judge, and two attorneys.|
|1982||The Commission is renamed as the Commission on Judicial Conduct by a constitutional amendment approved by state voters on November 2. The membership changed to three judges, three lawyers, and three members of the public. It also changes how the membership is chosen.|
|1988||In the case of In re Inquiry Concerning A Judge - 762 P.2d 1292 (Alaska,1988), the Commissions ability to issue reprimands (as was provided by state statute) was found to be unconstitutional.|
|1991||The Commission issues it's first set of formal ethics opinions.|
Code of Judicial Conduct
Below is the summary of the Alaska Code of Judicial Conduct. Full documentation is available at the Alaska Court System website.
|Canon 1: A Judge Shall Uphold the Integrity and Independence of the Judiciary|
|Canon 2: A Judge Shall Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in All of the Judge's Activities|
|Canon 3: A Judge Shall Perform the Duties of Judicial Office Impartially and Diligently|
|Canon 4: A Judge Shall So Conduct the Judge's Extra-Judicial Activities as to Minimize the Risk of Conflict with Judicial Obligations|
|Canon 5: A Judge or Judicial Candidate Shall Refrain from Inappropriate Political Activity|
Commission on Judicial Conduct
1029 West 3rd Avenue, Suite 550
Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 272-1033
Fax: (907) 272-9309
- State judge disciplinary agencies
- Ballotpedia:Alaska Judicial Qualifications, Amendment 1 (August 1968)
- Ballotpedia:Alaska Commission on Judicial Qualifications Amendment, Measure 3 (1982)
- Alaska Judicial Council, "Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct"
- 2011 Alaska Statutes: Chapter 22.30.015 Judicial Conduct
- Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct, "Calendar Year 2010 Activities"
- Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct, "Calendar Year 2011 Activities"
- Alaska Court System, "Alaska Code of Judicial Conduct"