Does a citizen of Texas have the ability to file a complaint against a Judge? The answer is yes. An amendment to the Texas Constitution passed in 1965 provides for the “State Commission on Judicial Conduct” to oversee and investigate allegations of misconduct by Texas Judges.
The Commission has authority over Texas judges, including appellate, district, county, justice and municipal level judges, visiting judges, and associate judges. It is made up of 13 members who serve six year terms with no compensation. These members consist of six judges from each of the various court levels appointed by the Texas Supreme Court, two attorneys appointed by the State Bar of Texas, and five citizen members who are not lawyers or judges appointed by the Governor. The Commission has a staff of 14.
If you think you received an improper ruling in a case, sentencing in a criminal case, or are moved to complain against an unpopular decision by the judge, these are not considered misconduct and your complaint will not be heard. This is normally calls for appellate review and these types of issues are handled by the appeals process.
If you feel you have a legitimate complaint you can call the State Commission on Judicial Conduct at (512) 463-5533 or (877) 228-5750. A telephone call is not sufficient to open an investigation. There is a complaint form which is used to open a file. The form may be obtained from:
STATE COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL CONDUCT
P.O. BOX 12265
AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2265
You need to state in a concise manner the circumstances and the facts that led you to the belief of misconduct by the judge. Include any court documents or written evidence to support your complaint. Lack of judgment or diligence by a judge will not normally receive a review. Much more serious misconduct is required. Once the complaint is received by the Commission you will receive a written notice that the complaint is being investigated. If a reprimand, public admonition or warning is given by the Commission you will receive a copy of this as well.
The Texas Constitution requires that all activities of the Commission be confidential. The meetings are closed even to the person filing the complaint. They meet a minimum of six times annually and can review over 600 complaints during the year. According to the Commission, each complaint receives just consideration. Texans can usually plan on about 6 months for their complaint to be reviewed. That’s the average. Some can be quicker or take considerably longer depending on their complexity.
The commission has the authority to give a public or private admonition, a warning or reprimand. They do have the power to suspend a judge if charged with a misdemeanor involving official misconduct. This ruling is seldom given, and would normally be appealed by the judge involved.