Electionbuttonsnowords.png
Read this week's JP Election Brief:
Runoffs, retentions and a special election



Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct

From Judgepedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Note: State judicial disciplinary agencies do not have appellate jurisdiction or authority over federal court judges and justices.

Alaska

The Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct is a constitutionally mandated judicial disciplinary agency in Alaska. The Commission deals with issues of judicial conduct and disability.[1]

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.[2]

The Commission also has a small staff comprised of an executive director and an administrative assistant.[1]

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:

  • A complaint is filled by any person or initiate by the Commission itself.
  • The complaint accusation is reviewed and an initial inquiry is conducted to see if a further investigation is warranted.
  • After further investigation, the Commission can then dismiss the complaint or conduct a formal investigation, at which point the judge who is the subject of the complaint is informed.
  • If the Commission finds probable cause of judiciary misconduct, a formal and public statement of charges is issued.
  • An open public formal hearing is held, at which point special counsel hired by the Commission presents the case against the judge.
  • The Commission hears the case and issues a decision, including exoneration, recommendation of counseling, or a recommendation of formal action by the Alaska Supreme Court.
  • The Alaska Supreme Court remediation may including: suspension, removal, retirement, public or private censure, reprimand or admonishment.[1]

(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.[3])

Flow Chart

State laws

The Commission receives its powers through both state constitutional and statutory laws.

Constitution

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.

Statutes

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:

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.

Complaint statistics

The number of complaints filed by year with the Commission, both within and outside of its authority, are as follows:[4]

Year # Filed
2011 72
2010 52
2009 49
2008 61
2007 32
2006 58
Year # filed
2005 48
2004 64
2003 46
2002 44
2001 52
2000 63
Year # filed
1999 48
1998 57
1997 49
1996 38
1995 50
1994 27
Year # filed
1993 54
1992 40
1991 43
1990 38

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".[4]

Opinions

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.[5]
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.[5]
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.[5]

See the rest here

Advisory opinions

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.[5]

History

Date Developments
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.[1]
1991 The Commission issues it's first set of formal ethics opinions.[1]

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[6]

Contact information

Commission on Judicial Conduct
1029 West 3rd Avenue, Suite 550
Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 272-1033
Fax: (907) 272-9309

See also

External links

References

AlaskaAlaska Supreme CourtAlaska Court of AppealsAlaska Superior CourtAlaska District CourtNative American Tribal CourtsUnited States District Court for the District of AlaskaUnited States Court of Appeals for the Ninth CircuitAlaska countiesAlaska judicial newsAlaska judicial electionsJudicial selection in AlaskaAlaskaTemplatewithoutBankruptcy.jpg