The following case summaries represent examples of complaints on which the Commission took action during 2014.  Only masculine pronouns are used, in order not to identify any of the participants. 

A. Dismissed without Investigation (after preliminary review) 

(1) Stale. A represented plaintiff in a civil matter alleged that a judge of the Superior Court Department intentionally failed to follow the law, violated his constitutional rights, and improperly failed to recuse himself. The plaintiff referenced hearings before the judge that occurred approximately eleven years before the plaintiff filed his complaint with the Commission. The preliminary inquiry consisted of reviewing the materials submitted by the plaintiff and asking the plaintiff for any additional evidence to support his allegations. The preliminary inquiry yielded no evidence to support this complaint. Accordingly, the Commission voted there was not good cause to investigate this stale complaint and to dismiss it. 

(2) Frivolous or Unfounded. A self-represented plaintiff in a civil matter alleged that a judge of the Superior Court Department was biased against him because he represented himself and the defendant had retained counsel. The plaintiff also alleged that the judge failed to grant him a full opportunity to be heard. The preliminary inquiry consisted of reviewing the materials submitted by the plaintiff, asking the plaintiff for any additional evidence to support his allegations, and reviewing the docket sheet for the civil matter at issue. The plaintiff was unable to provide any evidence, other than decisions within the legal discretion of the judge, to support his allegations. The preliminary inquiry yielded no evidence to support the allegations. Accordingly, the Commission voted to dismiss this complaint as frivolous or unfounded. 

B. Dismissed after Investigation 

(3) A represented defendant in a criminal matter alleged that a judge of the District Court Department denied him due process by threatening to send him to jail if he did not plead guilty in the criminal matter before the court. The investigation included reviewing the materials submitted by the defendant, asking the defendant for any additional evidence to support his allegations, listening to the audio record of the plea hearing at issue, and reviewing court documents from the criminal matter. The investigation revealed that the judge conducted a normal plea colloquy with the defendant and did not coerce the defendant into pleading guilty. Accordingly, the Commission voted to dismiss the complaint. 

(4) A self-represented defendant in a criminal matter alleged that a judge of the District Court Department treated him discourteously, created an appearance of bias against him, and failed to grant him a full opportunity to be heard. The investigation included listening to the audio records of the proceedings at issue, reviewing materials submitted by the complainant, reviewing the docket sheets for the matter, and communicating with the judge. The investigation revealed that the judge’s treatment of the defendant was professional and appropriate, that the judge exhibited no bias, and that the defendant was given a full opportunity to be heard. Accordingly, the Commission voted to dismiss the complaint. 

(5) A self-represented defendant in a civil summary process matter alleged that a judge of the Housing Court Department failed to grant him a full opportunity to be heard. The investigation included reviewing the materials submitted by the defendant, asking the defendant for any additional evidence to support his allegations, listening to the audio record of the hearing at issue, and reviewing court documents. The investigation revealed that the judge had given the defendant a full opportunity to be heard. Accordingly, the Commission voted to dismiss the complaint. 

C. Dismissed with an Expression of Concern 

(6) A represented defendant in a civil matter alleged that a judge treated him and his counsel discourteously and displayed bias against him and his counsel. The investigation included reviewing the audio records of the eight hearing dates at issue, reviewing the docket sheets for the matter at issue, interviewing the defendant, and interviewing the judge. The investigation revealed that the judge did raise his voice and address the defendant’s counsel with an irritated, impatient tone. However, the investigation did not reveal any evidence that the judge acted in a manner that would cause a reasonable person to believe he was biased. The Commission dismissed this complaint while expressing its concern to the judge regarding the manner in which he addresses parties appearing before him. 

(7) The Commission initiated a complaint alleging that a judge created an appearance of bias by questioning a party aggressively during a several day long civil trial in which all parties were represented by counsel. The investigation included reviewing the audio records of the entire trial, interviewing a witness, and interviewing the judge. The Commission dismissed the complaint while expressing its concern to the judge that, in the future, he consider whether the manner in which he chooses to question a witness could lead a reasonable person to believe that he has made a prejudgment or is biased. 

D. Informal Adjustments/Agreed Dispositions 

(8) The investigation of three separate complaints against a judge established that the judge had engaged in a pattern of treating parties appearing before him discourteously, in violation of Canons 1A and 3B(4). The judge and the Commission entered into an Agreed Disposition in which the judge agreed to retire. 

(9) The investigation of two complaints against a judge relating to two separate criminal matters the judge had presided over established that, in one of the matters, the judge had treated the defendant discourteously and had failed to be faithful to the law, in violation of Canons 1A, 2A, 3B(2), and 3B(4); and in the other matter, the judge had failed to grant one of the parties a full opportunity to be heard and had again failed to be faithful to the law, in violation of Canons 1A, 2A, 3B(2), and 3B(7). The judge and the Commission entered into an Agreed Disposition in which the Commission privately admonished the judge for that misconduct. The judge agreed to be monitored by the Commission for any further violations of the Code for a period of one year and to meet regularly with a mentor judge during the period of monitoring. The complaint will be closed at the end of the monitoring period and will remain confidential if the judge succeeds in complying with the conditions of the Agreed Disposition.