On Thursday, March 2, 2023, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct published a news release regarding the Commission’s recorded number of complaints and inquiries for the year 2022.

Established as an independent agency in 1978 through the state constitution, the Judicial Conduct Commission is mandated to evaluate and investigate complaints of misconduct against judges of the state in the unified court system, and discipline the same for violations of the ethical standards. For the year 2022, the commission rendered public decisions against 928 judges, including 178 who were removed from office and 122 who resigned and publicly agreed never to return to the bench.

The commission reported that it received 2,439 complaints, the highest by far in its history, depicting a 25% increase from 2021, a 14% increase over the previous record high in 2017, and a 24% increase over the 5-year average of 1965 a year. There were also 25 public decisions that were rendered throughout the year, the highest since 2009.

Moreover, the commission reported that: there are 549 preliminary inquiries that were conducted; 344 full-fledged investigations were undertaken: 170 new ones and 174 carried forward from 2021; 13 judges were publicly disciplined (three judges were removed from office while seven were censured and three were admonished); 12 judges resigned and publicly agreed never to return to judicial office; six other judges resigned while complaints were pending; 27 judges were issued confidential cautionary letters, and; 187 matters were pending at year’s end.

Commission Chairman Joseph W. Belluck stated “Faith in the integrity of the courts is fundamental to the rule of law. The work of the Judicial Conduct Commission promotes public confidence in a judiciary that is both independent and accountable. I thank my dedicated fellow Commission members and our talented staff for unfailingly meeting their commitments.”

This information is reported in the commission’s newly released 2023 Annual Report, covering its activities for the year 2022. In addition to the summaries of the public disciplines, confidential cautions, and statistics for the said year, the 2023 Annual Report comments on the perils of social media, courtroom decorum (both virtually and in-person), ethical obligations of judges and judicial candidates, town and village justices’ fiduciary obligations, and the misuse of parking placards. For this year (2023), the Governor’s executive budget recommended an increase of $1.1 million from the $7.2million of the commission’s budget totaling $8.1million, which according to the report will allow the commission to hire additional staff and implement a much-needed electronic case-management system, upgrade its records-keeping software and IT capabilities, and achieve the mandated increases in rent and other contractual obligations.

In relation to the report, commission administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian stated, “The Judicial Conduct Commission is a notable success story in government ethics enforcement. It promotes judicial independence and public confidence in the courts, by disciplining those judges who have engaged in misconduct, and exonerating those who have been wrongly accused.”

The Commission is comprised of 11 members, of which four of them are appointed by the governor, three by the chief judge, and four by the leaders of the legislature. Members serve overlapping four-year terms and are eligible for re-appointment.

Source: New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct