Defending a Complaint before the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission

If you received a letter from the Judicial Standards Commission concerning an alleged or potential violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct or other allegations, you may be uncertain about what to do next, what the procedures are, and what the results may be.

You may also be trying to decide whether you need to hire an attorney to assist you in responding to the Commission.  Our firm represents judges in responding to the Commission and defending against allegations of misconduct.

In the sections below, we attempt to address some of the questions you may have and explain the general process, procedures, and possible results.

North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission-Overview

As background, the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission (“Commission”) was established in 1973 to consider complaints against state district, superior, and appellate court judges and justices and, where appropriate, to make recommendations for discipline to the North Carolina Supreme Court. The Commission is authorized to receive and investigate written complaints regarding misconduct or disability of a judge. After a complaint has been investigated and the judge has been given a due process hearing, the Commission may recommend to the Supreme Court of North Carolina that the judge be disciplined.  In addition, the Commission may recommend that the Supreme Court remove a judge for mental or physical incapacity interfering with the performance of duties when the incapacity is, or is likely to become, permanent.

The thirteen-member Commission is composed of: five judges appointed by the Chief Justice, which must include a Court of Appeals judge, two Superior Court judges and two District Court judges; four attorneys appointed by the State Bar Council; and four citizen members who are not judges or lawyers, two appointed by the Governor and two appointed by the General Assembly.  The Court of Appeals judge operates as chair of the Commission and serves at the pleasure of the Chief Justice. Other Commission members serve a six-year term.  The Commission members are divided into two panels with one group serving as the “investigative panel” and the other serving as the hearing panel for each matter.

Responding to a Complaint