Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct Overview
The Committee's procedures begin with the receipt of a grievance. The staff assigns a file number and sends a letter of acknowledgment to the grievant, emphasizing the Committee's limited jurisdiction and requesting any specific information that would assist the Committee in making the threshold decision of whether there is probable cause to proceed further.
The Committee, which meets every five to six weeks, discusses the matter at its next meeting. If the Committee decides that the grievance is obviously unfounded or frivolous or that the allegations are solely and properly the subject of an appeal, it dismisses the grievance. Approximately 60 percent of grievances are dismissed at this stage, usually because they are solely and properly the subject of appeal.
If the grievance is not obviously unfounded, frivolous, or solely and properly the subject of an appeal, the Committee directs its staff to undertake a preliminary investigation. That may involve obtaining a transcript or a tape of a court proceeding, requesting the judge's written comments about the allegations, or interviewing witnesses. The Committee decides what the scope of the investigation should be, and it may change the scope as the staff reports back to it at subsequent meetings.
The Committee may decide that the best way to resolve the matter is to discuss it with the judge at an informal conference, at which the members of the Committee discuss the matter directly with the judge.
If the allegations are more serious, the Committee will serve a formal complaint on the judge as a preliminary to a formal hearing. It is at this point that confidentiality ends under Rule 2:15-20. Once the ACJC issues a formal complaint, all further proceedings must be public; however, the ACJC may apply to the Supreme Court for an exception in special circumstances.
The standard for a decision to issue a formal complaint is a finding of probable cause that public discipline will be imposed. R. 2:15-12(a). Only the Supreme Court can impose public discipline.
The possible decisions by the Committee are dismissal, private reprimand or admonition or caution, or presentment to the Supreme Court recommending public reprimand, censure, suspension, or the institution of removal proceedings. Under the Rules, once the ACJC holds a formal hearing, it cannot dispose of the matter but must refer the matter to the Supreme Court with a recommendation for disposition.