Procedure Following Disciplinary Hearing
If no stipulation is reached, a hearing will be held and the hearing panel will determine whether to dismiss the proceeding or to file a recommendation with the N.C. Supreme Court. In all cases, the Executive Director will notify the respondent judge in writing of the decision of the hearing panel within 60 days after the conclusion of the disciplinary hearing, unless the time is extended by order of the Chairperson.
If the hearing panel reaches a decision to recommend the discipline of a judge, the Executive Director will prepare a proposed record of the proceedings and a written decision setting forth the hearing panel’s findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendation. Within 10 days after the official record has been settled, the Executive Director will certify the record and decision of the Commission and submit to the N.C. Supreme Court.
Possible Discipline and Outcomes of the Public Hearing
Upon recommendation of the Commission, the Supreme Court may reprimand, censure, suspend, or remove any judge for violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct for: willful misconduct in office; willful and persistent failure to perform the judge’s duties; habitual intemperance; conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude; or conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute. A judge who is suspended for any of the foregoing reasons will not receive compensation during the period of that suspension. A judge who is removed for any of the foregoing reasons will not receive retirement compensation and is disqualified from holding further judicial office.
Upon recommendation of the Commission, the Supreme Court also may suspend, for a period of time the Supreme Court deems necessary, any judge for temporary physical or mental incapacity interfering with the performance of the judge’s duties, and may remove any judge for physical or mental incapacity interfering with the performance of the judge’s duties which is, or is likely to become, permanent. A judge who is suspended for temporary incapacity may continue to receive compensation during the period of the suspension. A judge removed for mental or physical incapacity is entitled to retirement compensation if the judge has accumulated the years of creditable service required for incapacity or disability retirement under any provision of State law, but he may not sit as an emergency justice or judge.
Recent Change in Law regarding the Judicial Standards Commission-August 2013
A new law signed by the Governor in August 2013 prevents the Judicial Standards Commission from issuing public reprimands or other public rebukes for disciplined judges and shifts that authority to the state Supreme Court. Under the new law, all forms of public discipline are in the hands of the North Carolina Supreme Court. Previously, the Commission was allowed to issue a written public reprimand when a violation of the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct was considered minor. Also, under the new law, the hearing and case records remain confidential unless the Supreme Court ultimately disciplines a judge. As a result of the new law, there will be upcoming changes to the Commission rules regarding the disciplinary process.