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Grounds for Sanctioning State Judges

Judges are subject to standards of judicial conduct. Their actions are required to conform to certain norms and standards that relate to impartiality and ethical behavior. There are codes of judicial conduct for both state and federal judges. This article discusses cases in which state judges have been sanctioned or removed for ethical violations.

Legal Error


The New York Court of Appeals removed a judge from office because of his repeated failure to inform criminal defendants of their right to counsel under a state law. The court also found that the judge had imposed illegally excessive sentences and excessively high bail on defendants in disregard of the legal criteria for setting bail.

Administrative Failures


The Supreme Court of Indiana removed a judge for ongoing administrative failures. The court found that the judge had failed to issue timely decisions over a significant period of time and had failed to resolve cases promptly. The judge had also failed to comply with a directive to follow certain procedures relating to court records and files.

Instructing Potential Jurors to Lie


A California judge was publicly admonished for directing potential jurors to lie during criminal voir dire. The jury panel was overwhelmingly Caucasian, and the defendant was the African-American. The judge was concerned about the possibility of racial prejudice. He instructed the potential jurors to lie if, because of racial reasons, they doubted whether they would be able to give the defendant a fair trial.

Pattern of Misconduct


The Ohio Supreme Court suspended a judge from practicing law for two years after finding the judge had improper ex parte conversations (contact with only one side of the case). The judge had also improperly used county resources and employees in an unsuccessful political campaign.

Inappropriate Conduct toward Female Court Employees


The North Dakota Supreme Court suspended a judge for 60 days. The court found the judge had engaged in a series of inappropriate interactions with a female court employee. The judge had repeatedly made suggestive and crude comments.

Political Activity


A New York judge was admonished for political activity. The judge had made calls to party officials in support of a county party chairman’s re-election. The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct found that the judge’s partisan political activity created an impression of loyalty to the party chair and was a violation of the ethical rules.

Handling Traffic Tickets


The Mississippi Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge after he aided several criminal defendants by dismissing their speeding tickets even though the defendants had not appeared in court. The judge was also fined for his actions.

Failure to Disqualify


The North Carolina Supreme Court censured a judge for his failure to disqualify himself in a pending case. The plaintiff (the party suing in the case) had a separate lawsuit pending against the judge. The judge had refused the plaintiff’s request to remove himself. The court held that the judge should have disqualified himself because of a perceived lack of impartiality.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.