We know what to do if a lawyer violates his or her professional ethics, but what do you do if a judge violates his professional ethics? I'll tell you what you do--you contact the Connecticut Judicial Review Council online at www.ct.gov/jrc, visit them at 505 Hudson Street, Hartford, CT 06106, call them at 860-566-5424 and toll free at 866-222-6075, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The mission of the Connecticut Judicial Review Council is as follows: "To investigate and resolve complaints alleging misconduct, disability, or substance abuse of state judges, family support magistrates, and workers' compensation commissioners in order to promote public confidence in the courts and the integrity and independence of the judiciary by ensuring high standards of judicial conduct on and off the bench."
I submitted a complaint recently in regard to a judge who oversaw my case in family court. Now, don't ask me what the results were, because the case isn't over yet. But to sober you up, I'll share with you some of the statistics which I garnered from the last ten years of annual reports which are listed on the website. These reports appear to indicate that there are very few consequences to judicial misconduct in the State of Connecticut. Or, depending on how you see it, we have some really outstanding behaving judges in this state!
Every year there are a little over 100 cases where the judicial review council receives complaints about the professional behavior of judges in the State of Connecticut. On the average, out of these many complaints the vast majority are dismissed with the exception of maybe one or two.
The annual reports do not say much about the nature of these cases and why they are dismissed but around ten to fifteen of the dismissed cases consist of complaints that alleged improper conduct that occurred outside the statute of limitation as provided by law which is one year. The one year limitation is unfortunate because it seems to me that the wrongdoing of judges, as with fraud perpetrated against the IRS, should not be limited by any particular timeframe. Also, one year is a short timeframe given that so many litigants are so traumatized by the experience of judicial abuse that if sometimes takes years to formulate a coherent response.
It is also important to note that out of the 100 or so complaints per year, at least half of these complaints are submitted by self-represented parties.
In its guidelines, the council warns you that they can't do much about a decision or a ruling that you do not particularly like. Judges are allowed a great deal of disgression on the trial level and if you don't like their use of disgression, then take it up with appeals court. Also, the council is not able to affect the way a case is handled and they cannot remove a judge from a case. If you don't like the way a case is being handled, preserve your objections for appeal. If you want a judge to step down from a case, you can file a motion to recuse. But just don't waste your time bothering the judicial council with such things, because it can't do much about it, simply put.
The council concerns itself with violations of the judicial code of conduct which is located online at the judicial review council's website. This version includes substantial additional commentary and adds up to around 64 pages. The baseline code, including far fewer pages, is located in the 2011 Practice book right after the attorney's code of professional conduct.
The judicial code of conduct is broken up into four canons, which are then narrowed down further into specific rules. The four canons are as follows:
Canon 1: A judge shall uphold and promote the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety;
Canon 2: A judge shall perform the duties of juicial office impartially, competently, and diligently;
Canon 3: A judge shall conduct the judge's personal and extrajudicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with the obligations of judicial office;
Canon 4: A judge shall not engage in political or campaign activity that is inconsistent with the independence, integrity, or impartiality of the judiciary.
In regard to court behavior, a judge is expected to be patient, courteous, and unbiased towards the litigants that appear in his or her courtroom, and a judge should allow each litigant the opportunity to be heard. If you think this did not happen with you in your case, then you have the option of submitting a complaint with the judicial review board.
The website listed above for the judicial review council includes a complaint form, FAQs, as well as an explanation of the process. Its probably a good idea to send your complaint to the judicial review council by certified mail just in case they try to deny they received it. And I've kept an extra copy of the complaint I filed for myself so I have a copy in case they lose it. I'll let you know what happens.
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