Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, November 5, 2002


Page 3


Younger, Elected Judges Most Disciplined, 10-Year CJP Study Finds


By J'AMY PACHECO, Staff Writer


Judges under the age of 40 and jurists who were initially elected to the bench incurred the highest rate of discipline from the Commission on Judicial Performance over a 10-year period ending in 1999, according to figures released by the CJP yesterday.

The disciplinary rate for jurists aged 30 to 39 was 42.2 per 1,000 judges on the bench in California during the study period, according to the CJP’s report. Judges aged 60 and over had the lowest disciplinary rate, 28.9 per thousand judges. Judges aged 50 through 59 had the second-highest disciplinary rate, 32 per thousand, with judges aged 40 through 49 slightly lower, at 31.8 per thousand.

Jurists who were initially appointed to the bench were disciplined at an average of 29.8 per 1,000, while initially elected jurists racked up an average of 43.6 per 1,000.

The Summary of Discipline Statistics examines disciplinary actions taken between 1990 and 1999, including advisory letters, public and private admonishments, public reprovals, public censures and removal from office issued in 499 cases involving the state’s trial and appellate judges. Neither subordinate judicial officers nor their positions were considered in the study.

The Commission on Judicial Performance is the disciplinary body for the state’s judges. The study was initially compiled for use by commission members and is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, the commission said in a written release.

The report, which is available on the commission’s Web site, cautions readers to avoid drawing statistical inferences from the figures presented.

In an examination of discipline by length of time on the bench, judges with between three and six years on the bench had the highest rate at 36 per 1,000 judges. Jurists with two years or less followed with 30.9, while judges with seven through 14 years of service had 30.3 and judges with more than 15 years had 29.5.

Small courts had the highest rate of discipline. Counties with one or two judicial positions averaged 56.7 disciplinary actions per 1,000 judges, while counties with three through nine positions had an average of 52.5. Counties with 10 to 42 positions averaged 39.8, while counties with 43 to 428 positions averaged 29.1.

The study found that 61.7 per 1,000 judges had no prior discipline record, while 38.3 had been disciplined previously.

The greatest rate of discipline stemmed from matters categorized as involving demeanor or decorum. That category was cited in an average of 13.4 percent of the instances of discipline studied, which totaled 722 for the 499 cases included in the study, many of which involved more than one incident.

Misconduct involving bias or the appearance of bias not directed at a particular class was cited in 9.8 percent of the cases; disqualification/disclosure and related retaliation in 9.3 percent, and on-bench abuse of authority in 7.9 percent. Ex parte communication was cited in 7.6 percent of cases; decisional delay, tardiness and other dereliction of duty in 6.9 percent, and failure to insure rights and off-bench abuse were each cited in 6.8 percent. Abuse of contempt or sanctions was cited in 6.2 percent of cases.

The majority of complaints to the commission came from litigants, or a friend or family member of a litigant. In cases that ultimately involved discipline of a judge, 34.7 came from a litigant, a friend or a family member. That number was significantly higher when the total number of complaints was studied—78.9 percent of all complaints to the commission originated with a litigant, family member or friend.

Attorneys reported 29.9 percent of incidents that resulted in disciplinary action, but just 7.6 percent of the total number of complaints.

Court staff, including other judges, originated 8.1 percent of those incidents resulting in discipline, and 1.6 percent of total complaints.


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company