Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct

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Commission on Judicial Conduct


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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

What is the process for filing a complaint against a judge?

Download a complaint form from the website, fill it out as completely as possible, and mail it back to us. If you have any questions, call the Commission (617-725-8050), and a staff member will assist you.

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Does the Commission require that I use the complaint form?

No. A letter naming the judge, detailing the allegations of misconduct, giving the date[s] of the alleged misconduct and providing the name and docket number of the case is sufficient.

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Can I attach supporting documents?

Yes, supporting documentation can be helpful, although please do not rely on them alone to state the alleged misconduct. It is important for you to state as clearly and as briefly as possible your allegations in the space provided on the complaint form.

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Can I use one complaint form to file complaints against several judges at once?

No. Please file a separate complaint form against each of the judges.

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What if I am not sure that the judge's conduct constitutes judicial misconduct?

The Code of Judicial Conduct describes what constitutes misconduct for Massachusetts judges. If after reading it, you have any questions, a staff member at the Commission will answer your questions.

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Can I file a complaint against a federal judge with the Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct?

No, the Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct only has jurisdiction over Massachusetts state judges. To file a complaint against a federal judge, contact the federal court where the judge sits.

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Can I file a complaint against a clerk-magistrate with the Commission?

No, complaints against clerk-magistrates should be directed to the Supreme Judicial Court's Committee on Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Court, John Adams Courthouse, One Pemberton Square, Boston, MA 02108.  (617-557-1101)

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Must the judge disqualify himself or herself from my case if I file a complaint?

No. Filing a complaint has no bearing on whether or not the judge continues hearing your case.

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Will the judge know that I filed a complaint?

Yes. If the Commission investigates your complaint, the judge is given notice of the complaint and an opportunity to respond to the allegations you made. In very limited circumstances, where there is a substantial danger of reprisal or retaliation by the judge against a complainant or any other person mentioned in the complaint, the Commissioners may decide to withhold notice to the judge of the complaint until the risk of reprisal ends.

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The judge's decision was wrong. Can I change it or get it overturned by filing a complaint?

No. Nothing the Commission can do will affect the decision in your case. The Commission is not a court and has no authority to grant relief to litigants. Commission proceedings are not a substitute for an appeal. The Commission cannot advise you about this, or give you any other legal advice. You may wish to consult an attorney to review your right to appeal the decision in your case.

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What can the Commission do if it finds that judicial misconduct occurred?

The Commission disciplines judges who have committed judicial misconduct in the following ways. First, the Commission may issue Formal Charges against a judge and proceed to a public hearing. If, after the hearing, a majority of the members of the Commission agree that the judge should be disciplined, the Commission may recommend to the Supreme Judicial Court the following sanctions:

    (1) retirement;
    (2) imposition of discipline as an attorney;
    (3) imposition of limitations or conditions on the performance of judicial duties;
    (4) public or private reprimand or censure;
    (5) imposition of a fine;
    (6) assessment of costs and expenses;
    (7) imposition of any other sanction which is reasonable and lawful.

Second, the Commission may discipline a judge by informally resolving the complaint with the judge. With the consent of the judge, the Commission may by informal adjustment dispose of a complaint at any stage of the proceedings by:

    (1) informing or admonishing the judge that the conduct in question is or may be cause for discipline;
    (2) directing professional counseling and assistance for the judge;
    (3) imposing conditions on the judge's conduct; or
    (4) persuading a judge to retire voluntarily.

Third, the Commission, with the consent of the judge, may also issue a private reprimand. The judge may consent to make the reprimand public.

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Will I hear further from the Commission?

Yes. The Commission is required to inform complainants of the disposition of their complaints.

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How long do I have to file a complaint?

A complaint should be filed within one year of the occurrence of the alleged misconduct. If it is longer than that, you should explain why on your complaint.

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Is there any use in having more than one person file a complaint about the same alleged misconduct?

Not really. Allegations of judicial misconduct will be investigated in the same manner whether one person or 100 make them. All that matters is that the allegations be made once, clearly and fully. (If more than one person actually witnessed the misconduct, be sure to tell us the names of all witnesses and how we can reach them.)

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Copyright (c)2015 Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct

Website Disclaimer:  The Commission on Judicial Conduct, which administers this Web Site, does not provide legal assistance or advice. If you need such advice or assistance, you may wish to consult an attorney. This Web Site is provided as a public service. The Commission assumes no liability for the use of the information provided herein. Many links from this site are to sites over which the Commission assumes no authority or control. The Commission on Judicial Conduct assumes no responsibility for the accuracy or veracity of the information that a user may encounter at these sites.