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The State Commission on Judicial Conduct may consider allegations of judicial misconduct from the following sources:
  • a news article;
  • information received in the course of an investigation;
  • an anonymous source; or
  • an individual.
Complainants may request to keep their identity confidential. However, without the full cooperation of the Complainant, the Commission may not be able to verify allegations and fully investigate the matter.
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct has jurisdiction, or authority, over the following Texas judges:
  • municipal judges;
  • magistrates;
  • justices of the peace;
  • constitutional county judges;
  • county court at law judges;
  • statutory probate judges;
  • district judges;
  • appellate judges;
  • retired and former judges, sitting by assignment; and
  • associate judges and masters.
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct does not investigate allegations of misconduct against the following:

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct cannot exercise appellate review of a case or change the decision or ruling of any court. For example, if the Commission finds a judge's actions to be misconduct, the Commission can issue sanctions against the judge, or seek the judge's removal from the bench. However, even removal would not change the judge's ruling in a case. Only the appellate process can change the decision of a court.The Commission cannot:

  • remove a judge from your case;
  • change a judge's ruling or sentence;
  • order anyone to be released from jail or bench warranted;
  • provide legal assistance;
  • assist you in your case; or
  • award damages or provide monetary relief to Complainants.

Judicial misconduct is an action by a judge that brings discredit upon the judiciary or the administration of justice. It could be a violation of the Texas Constitution, the Texas Penal Code, the Code of Judicial Conduct, or other rules established by the Supreme Court of Texas. Examples might include the following:

  • inappropriate or demeaning courtroom conduct, such as yelling, profanity, gender bias, or racial slurs;
  • using the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others;
  • improper communication with only one of the parties or attorneys in a case;
  • public comment regarding a pending case;
  • hearing a case in which the judge has a financial interest in the outcome;
  • ruling in a case in which the parties or attorneys are related to the judge within a prohibited degree of kinship;
  • alcohol, drug, or mental health problems;
  • a judge's failure to cooperate with the Commission or failure to abide by any provision of a Voluntary Agreement to Resign in Lieu of Disciplinary Action;
  • out-of-court behavior such as sexual harassment, official oppression, bribery, theft, driving while intoxicated, making threats, or making racist comments; and
  • endorsement of a specific political candidate.

"Wrong" decisions by a judge are not misconduct, even if those decisions appear to fly in the face of the evidence or appear to be based upon "perjured" testimony, and even if the judge misapplies the law. Appeal may be the only remedy for such a situation, or there may be no remedy. Granting of custody or visitation, or setting child support are generally decisions within the discretion of the trial court. Any fine or sentence imposed by a judge in a traffic or criminal matter, if it is within the parameters set by law for the offense charged, is not usually a matter for Commission consideration.

The Commission does not accept complaints by telephone, fax, or email. To file a complaint, you may download a complaint form (available in English and Spanish) from this website, or you may request a complaint form by calling (512) 463-5533 or toll-free at (877) 228-5750. You may also write a letter outlining your complaint, which should provide the following information:

  • your contact information including a valid address and telephone number;
  • the judge's name and judicial office or title;
  • the specific conduct or action you believe was improper, including sufficient facts to describe what occurred;
  • the names of any witnesses and their contact information, such as addresses and telephone numbers; and
  • if applicable, copies (not originals) of any documents, correspondence, or other evidence that substantiate the allegations of judicial misconduct.

Online Complaint Form

Send your complaint to the following address: State Commission on Judicial Conduct

PO Box 12265
Austin TX 78711

 

 

You will be notified in writing that the complaint has been received. Each complaint is reviewed, analyzed, investigated as appropriate, and presented to the Commission for its consideration and vote. You may be asked to provide additional information, or in certain circumstances, appear before the Commission. The Texas Constitution requires that all investigative activities of the Commission are confidential. This means that the Commission cannot confirm or deny that an investigation is underway.Some cases are investigated quickly, while others are more complex and, therefore, require more time. A case can take anywhere from a few months to over a year to be resolved. An investigation may include:

  • legal research;
  • obtaining additional information and/or documents from the complainant;
  • interviewing witnesses;
  • interviewing the Complainant;
  • a letter of inquiry to the judge; and/or
  • under certain circumstances, the Complainant and/or judge may be asked to appear separately before the Commission.
View/Print Complaint Process Flowchart

Once the investigation is complete, the case is presented to the Commission for its consideration. Based on the specific constitutional provisions, statutes and canons under which the Commission operates, it considers and votes on each matter. In each case, the Complainant will be informed of the Commision's final action in writing. However, the Texas Government Code provides that the judge's name may not be stated in the correspondence to the Complainant, unless a public sanction has been issued. Likewise, in some instances, the name of the Complainant may be kept confidential.

Commission Decisions

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct has several options available when taking action on a case. The types of actions include dismissal, sanction, suspension, and the acceptance of a voluntary agreement to resign from judicial office in lieu of disciplinary action. The Commission may also initiate formal proceedings, which could result in the removal of the judge from the bench. After a thorough review of your complaint, the Commission has several options.

  • Administrative Dismissal: The Executive Director administratively dismisses a case when a Complainant makes a report that fails to state an allegation of judicial misconduct.
  • Dismissal: The Commission may vote to dismiss a case in which there is insufficient evidence of misconduct, or the Commission's investigation concludes that no sanctionable misconduct has occurred. All dismissed cases can be reconsidered by the Commission. The Commission describes the Reconsideration Policy in all letters of dismissal along with an explanation for dismissing the case.
  • Order of Additional Education: Legal and procedural issues are often complex. The Commission may find that the judge's actions exceeded their authority or are contrary to procedural rules. In a case where the judge was misguided but not acting in bad faith, the Commission may order additional education for the judge. Orders of additional education may also be combined with private or public sanctions.
  • Private Sanction: Sanctions are issued when sufficient evidence supports a finding of judicial misconduct. As it deems appropriate, the Commission uses, by order of severity, admonitions, warnings and reprimands to privately sanction judges. If the Commission votes to issue a private sanction, the appropriate order is prepared and the offending judge is served with the order and the Complainant is notified of the Commission's action. However, because the Commission is controlled by constitutional and statutory provisions that prohibit the release of information regarding investigation and resolution of a case, no other information regarding the case will be released to the public.
  • Public Sanction: Sanctions are issued when sufficient evidence supports a finding of judicial misconduct. As it deems appropriate, the Commission uses, by order of severity, admonitions, warnings and reprimands to publicly sanction judges. If the Commission votes to issue a public sanction, the appropriate order is prepared, the offending judge and the Complainant are provided a copy of the order, and the order is publicly disseminated to ensure public awareness.
  • Suspension: If a judge is indicted for a felony or charged with a misdemeanor involving the judge's official position, the Commission itself may vote to suspend the judge from office, with or without pay, pending the disposition of the charge under the provisions of 15(a) of the Procedural Rules for the Removal or Retirement of Judges and Article 5, Section 1-a(6)A of the Texas Constitution. The judge may request a hearing before the Commission in the event of a suspension under these circumstances.

Additionally, the Commission may request that the Supreme Court of Texas suspend a judge under the provisions of Rule 15(b) of the Procedural Rules for Removal of Retirement of Judges. Rule 15(b) states, Upon filing with the Commission of a sworn complaint charging a person holding such office with willful or persistent violation of rules promulgated by the Supreme Court of Texas, incompetence in performing the duties of office, willful violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct, or willful and persistent conduct that is clearly inconsistent with the proper performance of his duties or casts public discredit upon the judiciary or the administration of justice, the Commission, after giving the person notice and an opportunity to appear and be heard before the Commission (under the provisions of Rule 6), may recommend to the Supreme Court the suspension of such person from office.

The order of suspension and all records and proceedings relating to it will be made public.

  • Voluntary Agreement to Resign: In some cases, a judge may decide to resign in lieu of disciplinary action. Upon the Commission's acceptance of the agreement, the resignation will be public and may be used in subsequent proceedings before the Commission. The Commission will notify the Complainant of the agreement.
  • Formal Proceedings: In certain circumstances, the Commission may vote formal proceedings. The Commission may itself hold a trial, or request the Texas Supreme Court to appoint a special master to conduct the proceeding and report findings of fact to the Commission. The Commission may request additional evidence, dismiss the case, issue a public censure, or recommend removal. Formal proceedings and related information become public when the Commission files formal charges. The Commission itself cannot remove a judge. Under the provisions of the formal proceeding process, only the Review Tribunal may order a judge removed from the bench. The Supreme Court retains appellate authority over the decision of the Review Tribunal.

 

Within 30 days of the date the State Commission on Judicial Conduct issues a public or private sanction, or order of education, the judge may appeal the sanction by filing a written request with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas requesting the appointment of three appellate justices to act as a Special Court of Review.

Within 15 days after the Special Court of Review is appointed, the Commission must file with the clerk a "charging document," which includes a copy of the sanction issued, as well as any additional charges to be considered in the de novo trial; that is, a trial in which the case is considered from the beginning, as if the Commission had taken no previous action. Any hearings on the matter before the Special Court of Review are public, as well as any evidence introduced during a hearing, and pleadings filed with the clerk.

Within 30 days of filing the charging document, a de novo trial is held. The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure apply, except that the judge is not entitled to a jury.

The Special Court of Review may dismiss the case, affirm the Commission's decision, impose a greater or lesser sanction, or order the Commission to file formal proceedings. The decision of the Special Court of Review is final.

If the case is dismissed by the Commission, the Complainant can request, one time only, a reconsideration of the Commission's decision. The dismissal letter provides the Complainant with the Reconsideration Policy along with the Commission's form for requesting such review. The Complainant's request for a reconsideration must:

  • be in writing and received within 30 days from the date of the letter informing the Complainant of the dismissal; and
  • contain additional evidence (for example: witness statements, affidavits, and/or hearing transcripts, etc.) not previously reviewed by the Commission

 

The Complainants request for a reconsideration will be denied if the request does not meet these requirements. If the Complainants request for a reconsideration is granted, the Commission will vote to either:

  • affirm its original decision to dismiss the matter, or
  • reopen the complaint to conduct an investigation, which will be conducted by a member of the Commission's staff not involved in the original investigation.

The Complainant will be informed in writing of the Commission's decision on the request for a reconsideration.