Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics?
The constitutionally created Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics handles complaints about the ethical conduct of judges in Wyoming.
The Commission consists of twelve members:
- Six citizen members who are not attorneys, judges or retired judges, appointed by the Governor and approved by the Senate;
- Three attorneys who are licensed to practiced law in Wyoming, appointed by the Wyoming State Bar; and
- Two district judges and one circuit judge,elected by their respective organizations.
2. What types of complaints can the Commission address?
- The Commission has authority to handle a wide range of complaints against judges, who are defined as justices of the Wyoming Supreme Court, Wyoming district judges, Wyoming circuit court judges, Wyoming municipal judges, as well as court commissioners, court magistrates, or retired judges who have been given a general or special appointment order by the Wyoming Supreme Court to hear cases.
- Complaints within the Commission's authority include misconduct inside or outside the courtroom, conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, or mental or physical disability that seriously interferes with judicial duties.
3. Who can file a complaint?
A complaint may be filed by anyone who believes that a Wyoming judge has violated any Canon(s) of the Wyoming Code of Judicial Conduct.
4. How is a complaint filed?
- Address your complaint to the Chair of the Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics.
- Include the name of the judge in your complaint, as well as the facts surrounding the conduct in question.
- Have your complaint properly verified (i.e., sworn to and signed before a notary public).
- Mail it to the Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics, P.O. Box 2645, Cheyenne, WY 82003. Mark the envelope "Personal and Confidential."
- It is helpful to provide an address and telephone number where you can be reached.
The Commission also has authority to initiate its own inquiry into possible judicial misconduct.
5. How is a complaint investigated?
After a complaint has been reviewed and considered by each member of an investigatory panel, the panel votes on whether to commence a formal investigation or dismiss the complaint.
The investigatory panel may (1) contact the judge complained of and request a response; and if after the judge's response the panel believes further investigation is necessary, (2) instigate a preliminary investigation; and if after the completion of the preliminary investigation the panel believes further action is necessary, (3) refer the complaint to an adjudicatory panel for further proceedings including, if necessary, a formal hearing.
6. What actions can the Commission take?
The commission may:
- Recommend disciplinary action to the Wyoming Supreme Court.
- Sanction a judge privately.
- Dismiss the complaint if no violation is found.
7. What actions can the Commission NOT take?
The Commission cannot:
- Remove or replace a judge assigned to a legal proceeding.
- Review a legal decision made by a judge (i.e., child custody or support decisions; sentencing; etc.). A legal decision made by a judge may be reviewed only by state appellate courts (the Wyoming Supreme Court, or in some instances, a district court may review a decision of a circuit court).
- Address attorney misconduct or misconduct by any governmental agency except judges.
8. What disciplinary actions can the Commission take?
- Issuance of letters of correction
- Private censure, reprimand or admonishment
- Monetary sanctions
- Temporary discipline or interim suspension
- Public censure, reprimand or admonishment
- Removal from office
9. What is judicial misconduct?
Judicial misconduct can include, but is not limited to:
- Improper courtroom decorum
improper consideration and treatment of counsel, witnesses, and others; improper bench conduct such as drunkenness
- Failure or refusal to dispose of judicial business promptly
- Improper use of judicial authority
- Abuse of the power of the judicial office
- Improper influence
allowing family, social or political relationships to influence any judicial decision or matter relating to the administration of justice; conflict of interest; giving or receiving gifts, bribes, loans, or favors
- Impropriety off the bench
misappropriation or misuse of public employees, property or funds; improper comments, accusations or associations; interference with or influence on a pending or impending lawsuit; lewd or corrupt personal life; use of judicial position to extort or embezzle private funds
- Habitual intemperance
excessive use of alcohol or drugs
- Conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute
- Criminal behavior
- Failure to oversee administrative staff
failure to require staff, court officials and others subject to the judge's direction to exercise proper decorum, behavior, and attitudes; failure to refrain from manifesting bias or prejudice in the performance of official duties
10. What can a complainant expect?
All verified complaints are assigned to an investigatory panel. This panel is composed of three or more Commission members, including at a minimum one citizen member, one attorney member, and one judge member. All remaining Commission members may serve as the adjudicatory panel for that complaint should further action be necessary. Panel memberships rotate.
Judges are notified of complaints filed with the Commission only when it is necessary to conduct an investigation. A copy of the complaint is sent to the judge when an inquiry is made by the investigatory panel.
Individuals who file a complaint with the Commission will receive written correspondence indicating what action the Commission has taken on their complaint.
All matters before the Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics are confidential.
Any violation of the confidentiality provision constitutes an act of contempt and is punishable as such.
A recommendation for discipline which is filed by the Commission with the Wyoming Supreme Court loses its confidentiality upon filing.