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California Commission on Judicial Performance

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Note: State judicial disciplinary agencies do not have appellate jurisdiction or authority over federal court judges and justices.


The California Commission on Judicial Performance is a constitutionally mandated independent judicial disciplinary agency in California. It is responsible for investigating complaints of judicial misconduct and judicial incapacity, as well as for disciplining judges.[1]

Composition of the Commission

The Commission consists of eleven members: three judges, two lawyers, and six members of the public. All members serve four-year terms with a two term and ten year limit.[2]

  • The judges include one judge of the Court of Appeals and two judges of the Superior Courts. All three are appointed by the Supreme Court.
  • The two lawyers must be members of the State Bar of California and have practiced law in the state for 10 years. Both lawyers are appointed by the Governor.
  • The six members of the public must not be current or former judges or members of the State Bar. Two are appointed by the Governor, two by the Senate Committee on Rules, and two by the Speaker of the Assembly.
  • Vacancies are filled by appointed by the same authorities for the remainder of individual terms.

In 2011 the commission also had 27 authorized staff positions: 16 attorneys and 11 support staff.[3]

Members of the Commission

A current list of the members can be found on the Commission's website.

Case flow description

The standard case flow for complaints filed with the Commission is as follows:[4][5]

  • The Commission considers each written complaint against a judge to determine if an investigation is warranted.
    • The Commission's legal staff may assisted the Commission's review by researching legal issues or obtaining additional information from the complainant. The judge is not contacted.
  • The Commission orders a staff investigation. This generally starts with a staff inquiry, but may jump to a full preliminary investigation in serious cases.
    • During a staff inquiry the complaint may be closed without contacting the judge, or the judge will be asked in writing to comment on the allegations.
    • After a staff inquiry, the Commission may decide to close the complaint, issue an advisory letter in relatively minor cases, or proceed to a full preliminary investigation.
  • A full preliminary investigation may be differed in certain circumstances, or may include a period of monitoring.
  • After a full preliminary investigation, the Commission may decide to close the complaint, issue a notice of intended private or public admonishment, or proceed to a formal proceedings.
    • Formal proceedings may also be initiated if a judge rejects a private or public admonishment.
  • The formal proceedings begins when the Commission issues a notice of formal proceedings, which constitutes a formal statement of the charges.
    • During formal proceedings a judge may be suspended from judicial duties.
  • The commission may hold a hearing or request the Supreme Court to appoint three special masters to hear and take evidence then file a report.
  • After the formal hearing, the Commission can dismiss the case, issue an advisory letter, issue a public or private admonishment, issue a public censure and bar, or remove the judge from office.
  • The judge may petition the supreme court to review the case when the outcome is admonishment, censure, or removal.

Flow Chart

Flow Chart

State laws


The Commission is governed under Constitutional Article VI, Section 8, Section 18, Section 18.1, and Section 18.5.


The commission is governed in part by California Government Code, Title 8 (The Organization and Government of Courts), Chapter 2.5 (Commission on Judicial Performance), Articles 1 to 3 (sections 68701 through 68756). Chapter 11 (Judges' retirement law), Article 3 (sections 75060 through 75064), and Chapter 11.5 (Judges' retirement system II), Article 4 (sections 75560 through 75564), dictated the commissions actions when dealing with judicial disability retirement applications.[6]

The specific codes are found here.

In addition, the Commission has the responsibility under California Code of Civil Procedure, Title 2 (Judicial Officers), Chapter 3 (Disqualifications of Judge) (Section 170.9) of enforcing restrictions on gifts and honoraria to the judiciary. The specific code is found here.[6]

Rules of the Commission on Judicial Performance

The Commission is constitutionally authorized to make its rules for investigations and formal cases. The current rules can be found here.

  • Rule 101: Interested Party
  • Rule 102: Confidentiality and Disclosure
  • Rule 103: Protection from Liability for Statements
  • Rule 104: Duty to Cooperate; Response by Respondent Judge
  • Rule 105: Medical Examination
  • Rule 106: Judge’s Representation by Counsel
  • Rule 107: Notice Requirements
  • Rule 108: Extensions of Time
  • Rule 109: Commencement of Commission Action
  • Rule 110: Staff Inquiry; Advisory Letter after Staff Inquiry
  • Rule 111: Preliminary Investigation
  • Rule 111.5: Correction of Advisory Letter
  • Rule 112: Monitoring
  • Rule 113: Notice of Intended Private Admonishment
  • Rule 114: Private Admonishment Procedure
  • Rule 115: Notice of Intended Public Admonishment
  • Rule 116: Public Admonishment Procedure
  • Rule 116.5: Negotiated Settlement During Preliminary Investigation
  • Rule 117: Use and Retention of Commission Records
  • Rule 118: Notice of Formal Proceedings
  • Rule 119: Answer
  • Rule 119.5: Filing with the Commission During Formal Proceedings
  • Rule 120: Disqualification
  • Rule 120.5: Suspension; Termination of Suspension; Removal of Suspended Judge
  • Rule 121: Setting for Hearing Before Commission or Masters
  • Rule 122: Discovery Procedures
  • Rule 123: Hearing
  • Rule 124: Media at Hearing
  • Rule 125: Evidence
  • Rule 125.5: Exhibits at Hearing
  • Rule 126: Procedural Rights of Judge in Formal Proceedings
  • Rule 127: Discipline by Consent
  • Rule 128: Amendments to Notice or Answer; Dismissals
  • Rule 129: Report of Masters
  • Rule 130: Briefs to the Commission
  • Rule 131: Participation by Non-Parties
  • Rule 132: Appearance Before Commission
  • Rule 133: Hearing Additional Evidence
  • Rule 134: Commission Vote
  • Rule 134.5: Rule of Necessity
  • Rule 135: Record of Commission Proceedings
  • Rule 136: Finality
  • Rule 137: Retroactivity
  • Rule 138: Definitions

Policy Declarations of the Commission on Judicial Performance

The Commission has a set of internal policies and procedures regarding its own conduct, which are separated into seven divisions. They can be found here.

  • Division I: Complaints and investigations
  • Division II: Discipline and formal proceedings
  • Division III: Commission administration
  • Division IV: Disclosure of information
  • Division V: Disability retirement applications
  • Division VI: Code of ethics for commission members
  • Division VII: Discipline

Commission decisions

A database of public decisions and discipline actions from 1961 to present is available on the Commission's website.

Decision statistics

The following is a table of case decision statistics:[7]

Year Complaints Considered Dispositions Closed After Initial Review Closed After Investigation Advisory Letters Private Admonishments Public Admonishments Public Censure Removal Retired or Resigned with Proceedings Pending
2011 1,158 1,138 995 99 26 10 5 1 0 2
2010 1,176 1,133 988 96 31 8 4 3 0 3
2009 1,161 1,115 1,007 74 25 3 2 1 0 3
2008 909 892 805 48 18 7 7 0 2 5
2007 1,077 1,058 975 45 20 9 5 1 2 1
2006 1,019 1,023 919 64 16 7 9 4 1 3
2005 965 954 876 51 12 6 4 2 0 4
2004 1,114 1,080 993 60 13 8 3 0 1 2
2003 1,011 993 906 62 16 2 1 1 2 3
2002 918 901 830 40 17 6 1 4 0 3

Decision analysis

An analysis of the complaints from 1990 to 2009 performed for the Commission found some of the following trends:[8]

  • Female judges were less frequently sanctioned that male judges.
  • Initially elected judges were more frequently sanctioned than initially appointed judges.
  • Judges on smaller courts were more frequently sanctioned than judges on larger courts.
  • Judges who had previously been sanctioned by Commission made up a large share of judges disciplined.

The analysis also found no strong trend with:

  • The age of the judge.
  • The length of time the judge had been on the bench.


Date Developments
1960 Proposition 10 amended the California Constitution to provide for the Commission on Judicial Qualifications.[9]
1961 The Commission began operating.[9]
1966 Proposition 1a "simplified and improved" the constitutional language regarding the Commission and added censure as an approved method of discipline the Supreme Court can use.[9]
1976 Proposition 7 renamed the Commission to the Commission on Judicial Performance. It provided for the removal or retirement of Supreme Court Justices, allows the for the commission to use private admonishment as a method of discipline, and stated "habitual intemperance" and drug use as reasons for discipline.[9]
1988 Proposition 92 provided for public hearings and public statements by the commission in certain circumstances. It added public reprevol as a method of discipline by the commission. It also imposed term limits on commission members.[9]
1994 Proposition 190 made a number of changes to the commission, including requiring open case hearings in all formal charges against judges, giving the authority for censure and removal from the state Supreme Court to the commission, giving the authority to create governing rules from the Judicial Council to the Commission, and increasing the Commission membership to eleven members.[9]
1996 The Commission adopts and begins to use its Rules of the Commission on Judicial Performance.[6]
1998 Proposition 221 provided shared authority with the superior courts over investigation and discipline of subordinate judicial officers.[9]


Fiscal Year Appropriations Actual Expenditures
2010-2011[4] $4,105,542 $3,716,778
2009-2010[10] $4,071,482 $3,780,983
2008-2009[11] $4,067,246 $3,871,987
2007-2008[12] $4,490,799 $4,334,553
2006-2007[13] $4,373,965 $4,021,760
2005-2006[5] $4,093,000 $3,895,425
2004-2005[14] $3,864,548
2003-2004[15] $3,615,935
2002-2003[16] $3,682,606

Code of Judicial Conduct

Below is the summary of the California Code of Judicial Ethics. Full documentation is available at the California Court 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 quasi-judicial and extrajudicial activities as to minimize the risk of conflict with judicial obligations.
Canon 5: A judge or judicial candidate shall refrain from inappropriate political activity.
Canon 6: Compliance with the code of judicial ethics.[17]

Contact information

Commission on Judicial Performance
455 Golden Gate Avenue, Suite 14400
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: (415) 557-1200
Fax: (415) 557-1266

See also

External links


CaliforniaCalifornia Supreme CourtCalifornia Courts of AppealCalifornia Superior CourtsUnited States District Court for the Central District of CaliforniaUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of CaliforniaUnited States District Court for the Northern District of CaliforniaUnited States District Court for the Southern District of CaliforniaUnited States Court of Appeals for the Ninth CircuitCalifornia countiesCalifornia judicial newsCalifornia judicial electionsJudicial selection in CaliforniaCaliforniaTemplatewithoutBankruptcy.jpg