On Tuesday, March 28, 2023, the State of California Commission on Judicial Performance released its 2022 annual report wherein the numbers of active and former judges discipline that the commission handled for the year 2022 was presented.
California’s Commission on Judicial Performance is the independent state agency responsible for investigating complaints of judicial misconduct and judicial incapacity and for disciplining judges in the State of California. Its jurisdiction includes all active California judges. Moreover, the commission also has the authority to impose certain discipline on former judges, and the commission has shared authority with local courts over court commissioners and referees. In addition to its disciplinary functions, the commission is also responsible for handling judges’ applications for disability retirement.
The commission is composed of 11 members: six lay citizens, two appointed by the Governor, two appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules, and two appointed by the Speaker of the assembly; one justice of a court of appeal and two judges of superior courts appointed by the Supreme Court; and two attorneys appointed by the Governor. Members are appointed to four-year terms.
In regard to the year 2022, the commission considered 1,414 new complaints about active and former California judges. The 1,414 complaints named 1,005 judges. At the beginning of 2022, there was one formal proceeding pending before the commission, which was concluded in 2022. The commission instituted one formal proceeding in 2022, which remained pending before the commission.
In 2022, the commission concluded a total of 1,385 cases. After obtaining the information necessary to evaluate the complaints, the commission determined that there was not a sufficient showing of misconduct in the 1,294 of the complaints. In other words, there was an absence of facts which, if true and not otherwise explained, might constitute misconduct. A substantial percentage alleged legal errors not involving misconduct or expressed dissatisfaction with a judge’s decision. The commission closed these complaints without staff inquiry or preliminary investigation.
In terms of the matter of those closed with discipline, the commission publicly censured one judge and imposed three public admonishments. The commission also issued five private admonishments and twenty advisory letters. Specifically, the public censure includes the matter of Michael J. Mulvihill, Jr. For the public admonishment, it includes 3 subjects namely: Judge Judith L. Meyer; Justice Vance W. Raye, and; Judge Derek W. Hunt,
The commission receives over 1,200 complaints a year, which are processed by the intake staff. The commission members review the memorandums and then either vote to open an investigation or vote to close every single complaint that the commission receives. If an investigation is opened, the investigation staff must then contact and interview witnesses, review court records and other documents, order and review any transcripts, order and review any video, and sometimes conduct a court observation. The staff will then prepare a thorough memorandum of each investigation, and the commission members review it.