On Monday, March 4, 2024, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct released its annual report summarizing activities in 2023.

According to the report, the Commission received a record-breaking 2,982 complaints last year – a 22% increase from 2022 and 38% higher than the average of the past five years. This unprecedented volume of complaints represents growing scrutiny of judges and underscores the importance of the Commission’s work to promote ethics in the courts.

The Commission conducted 570 preliminary inquiries into complaints and undertook 395 full-fledged investigations, with 208 new cases and 187 continuing from the previous year. As a result of these investigations, 8 judges faced public discipline – including 4 who were removed from office, while 2 were censured and 2 received admonishments. Additionally, 9 judges resigned while complaints were pending against them, acknowledging they should not continue serving. Another 6 judges resigned before determinations were made regarding their cases. The Commission issued 65 confidential letters cautioning judges about less serious issues. At the end of 2023, 204 matters remained ongoing.

In its annual report, the Commission addressed several topics, such as pending legislation that could strengthen accountability. The report noted bills in the state legislature that would allow public disclosure of misconduct proceedings earlier, grant the Commission authority to complete disciplinary cases even if a judge resigns, and establish the Commission’s budget procedure to match that of the court system.

The report also discussed an incident where many judges improperly made political donations during an election cycle. Both the Commission and Chief Judge issued reminders about the ban on political activities for judges.

In addition, the Commission requested a budget of $8.9 million for the coming fiscal year, up from the prior amount to cover growing operational costs associated with its increased caseload. While the governor proposed less funding, the Commission will advocate for full resources from the legislature, which has traditionally supported the agency. If provided sufficient funding, the Commission can continue its work to promote an independent, impartial judiciary through fair investigation and appropriate response to complaints of misconduct.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.