North Carolina Senate committee amendment rewrites rules of judicial discipline in state, gives more power to legislature over discipline of Supreme Court justices

June 13th, 2013 by Bill Raftery Leave a reply »

The North Carolina Senate Judiciary I Committee last week took a bill related to family law appeals and has tacked on whole new sections related to judicial discipline in the state.

HB 122 as passed the House dealt with appeals of right to the Court of Appeals in interlocutory appeals in family law cases.

The Senate Judiciary I Committee took up the bill June 6 and added several sections related to judicial discipline in the state. Among other things the committee substitute:

1) Redefines public reprimands: Current law defines a public reprimand in part as “a written action of the [North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission] issued upon a finding by the Commission that a judge has violated the Code of Judicial Conduct and has engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, but that misconduct is minor and does not warrant a recommendation by the Commission that the judge be disciplined by the Supreme Court. ”

The Senate committee amendment redefines it as “a finding by theĀ  Supreme Court, based upon a written recommendation by the Commission that a judge has violated the Code of Judicial Conduct and has engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, but that misconduct is minor.”

2) Releases information from Commission to public: A new section would be added to existing law to provide “Upon issuance of a public reprimand, censure, suspension, or removal by the Supreme Court, the notice and statement of charges filed by the Commission, along with the answer and all other pleadings, and recommendations of the Commission to the Supreme Court, along with the record filed in support of such recommendations, are no longer confidential.”

3) Restructures judicial disciplinary bodies: Under current law when it comes to the Supreme Court’s justices, the Judicial Standards Commission’s recommendation for censure, suspension, etc. of a justice goes to the Court of Appeals, and specifically a panel of the Chief Judge and the 6 most senior members of the court.

Under the Senate committee amendment the Governor, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives would each appoint one judge of the Court of Appeals OR the District Court OR the Superior Court to review the Commission’s recommendation. None of the three can be a Commission member. The three judge panel would then make a recommendation to the Supreme Court.

The committee approved the amendment June 6 and it was set to be debated by the full Senate on May 11, but was stricken from the calendar and returned to the Senate Judiciary I committee.

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