The Judiciary Commission
The Judiciary Commission
of Louisiana, created in 1968 by an amendment to Article I,
constitution of 1921, is continued in existence by Article
V, Section 25, Constitution of 1974.
of the Judiciary Commission, the Supreme Court may censure,
suspend with or without salary, remove from office, or involuntarily
retire a judge for willful misconduct relating to his official
duty, willful and persistent failure to perform his duty,
persistent and public conduct prejudicial to the administration
of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute,
and conduct while in office which would constitute a felony,
or conviction of a felony.
of the Judiciary Commission, the Supreme Court may disqualify
a judge from exercising any judicial function, without loss
of salary, during pendency of disciplinary proceedings in
the Supreme Court.
of the Judiciary Commission, the Supreme Court may retire
involuntarily a judge for disability that seriously interferes
with the performance of his duties and that is or is likely
to become permanent.
jurisdiction includes justices and judges of all courts of
this state, including commissioners, magistrates, justices
of the peace, and mayors who perform judicial functions.
In accordance with
Rule XXIII, Section 23, of the Rules of the Supreme Court,
all documents filed with and evidence and proceedings before
the Commission are confidential unless and until the Commission
files a recommendation for discipline or retirement with the
Supreme Court. The record filed by the Commission with the
Supreme Court and the proceedings before the Supreme Court
are not confidential. Once a recommendation is filed with
the Supreme Court, it becomes public as any other case before
The Commission consists
of nine members who shall serve four-year terms: one court
of appeal judge and two district judges selected by the Supreme
Court; two attorneys admitted to the practice of law for at
least ten years and one attorney admitted to the practice
of law for at least three but not more than ten years, selected
by the Conference of Court of Appeal judges; and three citizens,
not lawyers, judges or public officials, selected by the Louisiana
District Judges Association. Members of the Judiciary Commission
are not allowed to succeed themselves as members of the Commission.
of Special Counsel
601 St. Charles Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70130
Sandra A. Vujnovich
Chief Executive Officer
400 Royal Street, Suite 1190
New Orleans, LA 70130-8101
The Judiciary Commission takes complaints against judges for misconduct very seriously. The Commission usually has no way of learning of possible judicial misconduct unless a complaint is filed. However, a complaint must be properly submitted for the Commission to conduct an evaluation and investigation. A complaint must be submitted in writing, must specifically name a judge or judicial officer (and not simply name an entire court), and must contain enough specific facts for the Commission to evaluate the judge’s alleged conduct. Complaints with only vague and/or conclusory statements will be screened out without action.
Complaints may be filed on the Commission’s Complaint Form or by letter. Individuals also may email complaints as long as the email does not contain any attachments and provided that the email includes the individual’s name and contact information. A complainant should keep a copy of the complaint and any documents filed; the Commission cannot return copies once submitted to it. Below are frequently asked questions regarding complaints.
- WHAT IS JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT?
- WHAT INFORMATION DOES A COMPLAINT HAVE TO CONTAIN?
- DOES IT COST ANYTHING TO FILE A COMPLAINT AGAINST A JUDGE?
- CAN THE COMMISSION CONSIDER ANONYMOUS COMPLAINTS?
- CAN THE COMMISSION CONSIDER COMPLAINTS SUBMITTED OVER THE PHONE?
- CAN COMPLAINTS BE SUBMITTED ONLINE?
- HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE THE COMMISSION TO ACT ON A COMPLAINT?
- OVER WHAT JUDICIAL OFFICERS DOES THE COMMISSION HAVE AUTHORITY TO EVALUATE COMPLAINTS?
1. WHAT IS JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT?
The Commission has the authority to evaluate, investigate, and make recommendations regarding misconduct of judges, which involves violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct or the Louisiana Constitution. The Code of Judicial Conduct provides ethical rules and guidelines pertaining to a judge’s judicial duties, extra-curricular activities, communications, and behavior, among other things. Violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct may constitute judicial misconduct, but not all violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct are sufficiently serious to warrant discipline from the Louisiana Supreme Court.
The Louisiana Constitution in Article V, Section 25 establishes that the following conduct by a judge qualifies as misconduct that could warrant discipline: (1) willful misconduct relating to his official duty, (2) willful and persistent failure to perform his duty, (3) persistent and public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute, and (4) conduct while in office which would constitute a felony, or conviction of a felony.
Judicial misconduct involves more than just reaching a decision that arguably is not supported by the law or the facts. Those cases usually can be appealed or reviewed within the court system, such as by a higher (appellate) court. In fact, the Commission does not have authority to evaluate a judge’s ruling -- even if that ruling is wrong -- if the judge has not engaged in any misconduct under the Code
of Judicial Conduct or the Louisiana Constitution. If the complaint simply shows that the individual is unhappy with a ruling or is pointing out why the judge was wrong, the Commission will screen out (and not evaluate) the complaint; it only has the power or authority to proceed with a complaint that alleges judicial misconduct.
2. WHAT INFORMATION DOES A COMPLAINT HAVE TO CONTAIN?
A complaint against a judge must be in writing and contain facts and allegations that if proven to be true show that the judge has engaged in unethical conduct and violated the Code of Judicial Conduct and/or the Louisiana Constitution. The complaint should also include any attachments or documents that support it. A complainant should keep a copy of the complaint and attachments. The Office of Special Counsel does not return copies or originals submitted to it by the complainant.
3. DOES IT COST ANYTHING TO FILE A COMPLAINT AGAINST A JUDGE?
NO. There is no cost to file a complaint against a judge.
However, complaints must be submitted in writing, must specify the misconduct or disability complained of, and should be signed by the complainant.
4. CAN THE COMMISSION CONSIDER ANONYMOUS COMPLAINTS?
YES. The Office of Special Counsel reviews anonymous complaints under a heightened standard. The anonymous complaint must allege facts that can be checked or verified independently from the complaint. If it does and if those facts, if proven to be true, would show that the judge engaged in unethical conduct, the Office of Special Counsel will present the matter to the Chair of the Commission to consider authorizing it send an initial inquiry letter to the Respondent. [Rules of the Supreme Court, Rule XXIII, Section 3(a)(1) and (a)(2) and Rules of the Judiciary Commission, Rule III.]
All complaints, especially anonymous complaints, should include as many specifics as possible, including dates, names of witnesses, details about the judge’s conduct, etc. and if documents or items are attached to the complaint, the complaint should identify its relevance and point to the relevant parts. Accordingly, if an anonymous complaint states only vague, conclusory, or non-verifiable allegations, the Commission will not open a file to pursue the matter. The matter will be screened out (and not evaluated further).
5. CAN THE COMMISSION CONSIDER COMPLAINTS SUBMITTED OVER THE PHONE?
NO. The Commission only considers written complaints. The Commission does not require a particular form for the complaint. However, a complaint form is available on the Supreme Court’s website for a complainant’s convenience. See www.lasc.org under the tab “Judiciary Commission.”
6. CAN COMPLAINTS BE SUBMITTED ONLINE?
NO. Although a complaint form is available on the Supreme Court’s website, it must be submitted by mail, by hand, or as a pdf attachment to an email, and should bear the complainant’s signature. If a complaint is emailed, it cannot contain attachments. The Commission cannot accept electronically a large number of documents as attachments to complaints. These must be submitted in paper format through the mail or by hand delivery.
7. HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE THE COMMISSION TO ACT ON A COMPLAINT?
The time needed to resolve a complaint differs for every complaint. If the Commission does not have jurisdiction over a complaint because it fails to allege sufficient facts or allegations to give rise to an issue of whether the Code of Judicial Conduct and/or the Louisiana Constitution was violated by the Respondent, it could be screened out within two to four months. However, if the Commission decides to conduct an investigation, and/or have a formal evidentiary hearing and then recommends discipline to the Supreme Court, resolution of a complaint could take nineteen to thirty-five months, depending upon how complicated the facts are and how many witnesses are involved. Below are the average estimates of time a complaint could spend at each stage of the proceeding:
STAGE 1 – Screening – 2-4 months
STAGE 2 – Inquiry – 3-6 months after the judge’s response is received
STAGE 3 – Investigation – 6-18 months
STAGE 4 – Hearing Before Hearing Officer – 6-12 months
STAGE 5 – Appearance Before the Commission – 3-9 months
STAGE 6 – Recommendation of Discipline to Supreme Court – 3-6 months.
8. OVER WHAT JUDICIAL OFFICERS DOES THE COMMISSION HAVE AUTHORITY TO EVALUATE COMPLAINTS?
The Commission has authority to evaluate complaints brought against all elected judges and justices of the peace in the State of Louisiana. It also has authority to evaluate complaints against mayors who performs judicial functions as well as individuals appointed by courts or judges to perform judicial functions, such hearing officers, commissioners, and magistrates.
The Commission does not have authority to evaluate complaints against federal judges, administrative law judges hired or appointed by entities other than courts (such as state agencies or cities), attorneys, court staff, constables, law enforcement officers, prison employees or officials, unnamed judges, or entire courts where no specific judges have been identified. The Commission will screen out (and not evaluate) complaints against any individuals over whom it does not have jurisdiction.