FAQ

 

The Commission's authority

Which judges can the Commission investigate?
What kinds of ethical misconduct can the Commission investigate?
I think my judge is being unfair! Can you move my case to a different judge?
I have court next week! Can you help me before then?
The judge issued a ruling that was wrong and maybe even illegal. Can you fix that?
Can you answer a basic legal question about my court case?

 

Filing a complaint

Who can file a complaint?
How do I file a complaint?
Can I send documents with my complaint?
Is there a time limit on filing a complaint?
Can you tell me if my complaint is something the Commission would investigate?
Should I file a complaint if I’m not sure the judge committed misconduct?”
Where can I file a complaint against an attorney?
Where can I file a complaint against a federal judge?

 

The Commission's procedures

What happens after I file a complaint?
Will I be notified if the Commission investigates my complaint?
How long will it take for my complaint to be processed?
The Commission dismissed my complaint. Can I appeal?
Will the judge know about my complaint?

 

Which judges can the Commission investigate?

 

The Commission can investigate judges of the New York State Unified Court System, including judges who sit in the following courts: 

  • The Court of Appeals
  • Supreme Court, including the Appellate Division and Appellate Term
  • County and City Courts, including New York City Civil and Criminal Courts
  • Family Court
  • Surrogate’s Court
  • District Court
  • Court of Claims
  • Town and Village Courts

The Commission cannot investigate:

  • Federal Court Judges
  • Judicial Hearing Officers
  • Housing Court Judges
  • Administrative Law Judges
  • Support magistrates
  • Former judges
  • Attorneys
  • Arbitrators or Referees

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What kinds of ethical misconduct can the Commission investigate?

 

The Commission can investigate a wide range of ethical misconduct that damages public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.  Common issues include:

  • serious failure to treat litigants, attorneys or court personnel with respect
  • conflicts of interest, including financial or social relationships with litigants or attorneys
  • bias or prejudice based upon age, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion, national origin, disability, marital status or socioeconomic status
  • prohibited political, fundraising or business activity
  • serious financial or record-keeping mismanagement
  • physical or mental disability that affects judicial performance
  • using the judge’s title to obtain private benefits for the judge or others
  • driving while intoxicated or other alcohol-related misconduct
  • lengthy and unexcused delay in rendering decisions
  • other unethical behavior on or off the bench.

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I think my judge is being unfair! Can you move my case to a different judge?

 

No.  The Commission cannot transfer your case to a different judge or require the judge hearing your case to disqualify herself. 

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I have court next week! Can you help me before then?

 

No.  Commission investigations take time and there is no procedure for an expedited or emergency investigation.  Most importantly, even if the Commission finds the judge committed misconduct, that determination will not transfer your case to a new judge and will not change any ruling the judge made in your case. You should consult a lawyer to discuss your potential remedies.

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The judge issued a ruling that was wrong and maybe even illegal. Can you fix that?

 

No.  The Commission is not an appellate court and cannot reverse any ruling made in your case.  You should consult an attorney about your right to appeal.  You can find more information about filing an appeal at http://nycourts.gov/courthelp/AfterCourt/appeals.shtml.

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Can you answer a basic legal question about my court case?

 

No.  The Commission is not permitted to give legal advice.

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Who can file a complaint?

 

Anyone can file a complaint.  You do not need to be an attorney.   

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How do I file a complaint?

 

The Judiciary Law requires that complaints be signed and in writing.  You can file a complaint online, print out our complaint form or send us a detailed letter complaint.

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Can I send documents with my complaint?

 

Yes, you can include any documents you think are relevant as an attachment to your complaint.  Please do not send original records. The Commission cannot return any documents you send us with your complaint.

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Is there a time limit on filing a complaint?

 

No, but you should send your complaint as soon as possible.  If you delay sending us your complaint, it may affect our ability to do a complete investigation. Please note that the Commission has no authority to investigate a former judge.

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Can you tell me if my complaint is something the Commission would investigate?

 

Commission staff is not permitted to offer advice about whether the Commission will authorize an investigation into your complaint.  The best course of action is to file your complaint, which would allow the Commission members to review it.

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Should I file a complaint if I’m not sure the judge committed misconduct? 

 

The Commission reviews and applies its expertise to each complaint individually, whether or not the complainant is confident that the alleged behavior would constitute misconduct.  If you are unsure, you should file your complaint and give the Commission the opportunity to decide.

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Where can I file a complaint against an attorney?

 

You can find information about how to file a complaint against a New York attorney here: http://ww2.nycourts.gov/attorneys/grievance/complaints.shtml

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Where can I file a complaint against a federal judge?

 

You can find information about how to file a complaint against a federal judge here: http://www.uscourts.gov/RulesAndPolicies/ConductAndDisability/JudicialConductDisability.aspx

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What happens after I file a complaint?

 

The Commission reviews each new complaint and makes an initial decision whether to investigate or dismiss the complaint.  Under the law, all Commission proceedings are confidential.

It the Commission authorizes an investigation, the Administrator assigns the complaint to a staff attorney, who works with investigative staff. Witnesses may be interviewed and court records may be examined. The judge may be asked to respond in writing to the allegations or to appear and testify under oath.

If the Commission finds after an investigation that the circumstances warrant, it will direct its Administrator to serve the judge with a Formal Written Complaint containing specific charges of misconduct.  The Commission will appoint a referee to conduct a formal hearing and report proposed findings. 

The Commission will review the findings of the Referee and, after hearing argument from the judge, her counsel and Commission staff, will make a determination whether misconduct has occurred. 

If the Commission determines that a judge has committed judicial misconduct, it may direct that the judge be privately cautioned, publicly admonished, publicly censured, removed from judicial office or retired for disability.

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Will I be notified if the Commission investigates my complaint?

 

If you have provided your name and address you will receive a letter acknowledging that we have received your complaint.

Because all Commission proceedings are confidential, Commission staff cannot discuss the progress of an investigation unless it is necessary to contact you for additional information or to request that you testify at a hearing.  

When the matter is concluded, the Judiciary Law requires that the Commission notify a complainant of its final disposition.

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How long will it take for my complaint to be processed?

 

It’s not possible to estimate how long it will take for the Commission to complete an investigation.  Some investigations are relatively simple, while others require interviews of numerous witnesses and extensive document review.

If the Commission authorizes a Formal Written Complaint, the confidential hearing process, which includes live testimony, preparation of transcripts, briefs to the Referee, a Referee’s report, and briefs to and argument before the Commission, can take a significant amount of time.

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The Commission dismissed my complaint. Can I appeal?

 

No.  A Commission determination to dismiss a complaint is final. See Diaz v New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, 26 NY3d 949 (2015); Mantell v New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, 277 AD2d 96 (1st Dept 2000).

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Will the judge know about my complaint?

 

Perhaps.  If the Commission decides to investigate your complaint, the judge may be asked to respond to the allegations you made.  In that case, the judge will be given a copy of the complaint.

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