On Monday, January 1, 2024, CT Insider reported that nearly 2,000 complaints had been filed against judges in Connecticut over the last 17 years, accusing them of misconduct such as bias, violating civil rights, and personal indiscretions. However, the state’s judicial oversight body, the Judicial Review Council, kept the vast majority of these complaints confidential, as is allowed under state law.

Out of the 1,967 complaints filed between 2006 and 2023, 1,929 were dismissed by the JRC while only 17 resulted in discipline for the judges. Even these disciplinary actions often remain hidden from public view. If the JRC issues a written reprimand to a judge, known as an admonishment, records of these are not disclosed either.

While most states keep initial judicial misconduct complaints private as well, some experts argued Connecticut’s system goes too far in its secrecy. They said greater transparency would increase accountability and fairness. If the details of dismissed complaints were available, patterns of problematic behavior could potentially be identified. Complainants also have no insight into why their complaint was rejected.

By contrast, judicial proceedings are generally more open than how Connecticut handles misconduct cases. Even when complaints do progress to a public hearing, the earlier phases of reviewing the complaint and determining if it merits further investigation remain confidential. Proponents of reforms point out that judges oversee public court cases but face less transparency themselves when accused of wrongdoing.

However, others say a certain level of privacy is warranted. Most complaints stem from litigants dissatisfied with rulings rather than legitimate ethics issues. Fully disclosing complaints could enable efforts to harass judges without merit. Connecticut officials also note the JRC review process is modeled after other states’ standards.

The report examined the small percentage of complaints in Connecticut that did result in discipline. Examples given included suspensions or censures for improper behavior, delaying decisions, arrests, and other ethics violations. While secrecy remains around many cases, the article highlighted ongoing debates around balancing judicial accountability and protection from nuisance complaints.

 

Source: CT Insider