- Rules and standards of conduct for Commission Members.
Show all Members' Policies.
An independent and honorable judiciary is indispensable to justice in our society. As the Commission on Judicial Conduct is charged with maintaining the integrity and independence of the judiciary, a member should participate in establishing, maintaining, and enforcing, and should personally observe, high standards of conduct.
These rules apply equally to members and alternates of the Commission on Judicial Conduct. The use of the term "member" in these policies includes "alternate", unless the context clearly indicates otherwise.
SECTION 1. GENERAL POLICIES
Policy 1.1 Attendance
- Participation. Decisions by the Commission are enhanced by the participation of all members and alternates at all Commission meetings. Although alternate members may vote on a matter only when their designated regular member does not vote on that matter, alternate members are encouraged to participate in all Commission discussions.
- Attendance and Absence. While circumstances may not permit attendance by every member and every alternate member at every meeting, in the interest of case consistency and procedural integrity all members and alternate members are strongly encouraged to attend all Commission meetings. All members and alternate members should make every effort, especially during the first 12 months of their Commission membership, to attend all regularly scheduled meetings, and, during their term of office never to miss more than two consecutive meetings. All members and alternates should also make every effort to attend the annual member education/training session.
Policy 1.2. Meeting Dates
The regular Commission meeting date will be the first Friday of every other month, commencing in February of each year, unless otherwise scheduled by the Commission or the Chair, with the business meeting scheduled at 11:00 a.m. Prior to the beginning of the calendar year, the Chair shall set a full schedule of meetings.
Policy 1.3. Commission Retreat
After consultation with the members, the Chair may schedule an annual retreat for the purpose of reviewing Commission policies, philosophy and rules.
Policy 1.4. Minute Keeping
The secretary of the Commission will maintain two separate sets of minutes, one for the business meetings of the Commission and one for meetings involving the consideration of complaints.
Policy 1.5. Amendment of Policies
- Adoption. These policies may only be amended or rescinded, or new policies adopted, by the affirmative vote of a majority of the members of the Commission.
- Notification. Notice of any Commission action on these policies shall be given to all members of the Commission at least 30 days before the meeting at which such action will be taken, unless the time period is shortened by unanimous vote of the Commission.
- Public Disclosure. Upon adoption, these policies and any amendments shall be made available for public inspection and shall be forwarded to:
Commission on Judicial Conduct
P. O. Box 1817
Olympia, WA 98507
SECTION 2. COMMISSION MEMBERSHIP
Policy 2.1. Member Obligations
- Notification. When an individual is appointed to the Commission, the member must notify the Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC).
- Orientation. When a new member is appointed to the Commission, the member shall attend an orientation conducted by the staff.
- Financial Disclosure. Members are subject to the financial disclosure requirements of the PDC. A Personal Financial Affairs Statement must be filed annually with the PDC pursuant to Chapter 42.17 RCW.
Policy 2.2. Representation by Members
- Representation before Commission. No member may represent or counsel a judge in a matter before the Commission during the member's term on the Commission or within two years after the member's term has expired.
- Communications with Media. Commission members shall not communicate on behalf of the Commission with the news media regarding Commission business, except as provided in this policy. Inquiries about the Commission's official position in all matters may be responded to only by the Executive Director, the Chair of the Commission, or any Commission member designated by the Chair to represent the Commission.
Policy 2.3. Recommendations
The Executive Director may respond to an inquiry regarding a member's length of service with the Commission. Inquiries regarding a member's performance on the Commission, for the purpose of recommendation, are not appropriate for response from the Executive Director, members, or staff, except that the Executive Director or the Chair may, in their discretion, provide comment on a member's performance, but only to that member's appointing authority. Any such comment shall not identify any particular disciplinary matter nor shall it disclose the substance of any deliberations as to any disciplinary matter.
Policy 2.4. Removal of a Member
No member may otherwise be removed from the Commission before the end of his or her term except upon good cause found by the appointing authority.
Policy 2.5. Enforcement of Policies
While members and alternates are expected to comply with all member policies, and while most member-policy noncompliance issues can likely be resolved informally and collegially without recourse to the appointing authorities, ultimate enforcement of these policies is in the hands of each member's respective appointing authority. Pursuant to RCW 2.64.030, members may be removed from the Commission before the end of their term only if they cease to hold the position that qualified them for appointment or upon good cause found by the respective appointing authority. Thus, the procedures set forth in this section are not mandatory but are merely voluntary guidelines for a possible course of action.
As used in these policies, the word "should" denotes a preferred, but not mandatory course of conduct, while the words "shall," "will," and "must" denote a mandatory course of conduct.
If a member or alternate fails to comply with a policy stating a mandatory course of conduct, or fails regularly to attend Commission meetings, the Chair or the Executive Director may consult the member or alternate as to the cause of such failure and may, as they may deem appropriate under the circumstances, report thereon to the other members. Depending on the nature and extent of the noncompliance, the Chair or Executive Director may engage in further consultation with the non-complying member or alternate member, and/or may refer the matter to the Commission as a whole, which may, by majority vote of regular members, recommend appropriate further corrective action, which may include a recommendation to that member's appointing authority that such member or alternate be removed from office.
Any recommendation made to an appointing authority to remove a member or alternate member from office should state the basis for the recommendation, list the member conduct policies allegedly violated, and describe the conduct in question. Before the Commission forwards such recommendation to the non-complying member's (or alternate member's) appointing authority, the Commission should notify the non-complying member or alternate member of such recommendation and should give that member or alternate member 10 calendar days to submit to the Commission a written statement agreeing or disagreeing with the Commission recommendation, which statement should then be submitted by the Commission, along with its own recommendation, to the appointing authority.
Unless and until the appointing authority removes a member or alternate member, or that member or alternate member resigns their membership in the Commission, that member or alternate shall retain all powers, and shall be obligated to perform all duties, of regular or alternate membership as the case may be.
SECTION 3. RULES OF CONDUCT
Policy 3.1. Confidentiality
- General Application. All disciplinary proceedings before the Commission are confidential. The fact that a complaint has been made, or a statement has been given to the Commission and all papers and matters submitted to the Commission together with the investigation and initial proceedings conducted pursuant to the CJCRPs, shall be confidential.
- Applicability to Member's Staff. Commission members and their personal staff must maintain the confidentiality of disciplinary proceedings.
- Gag Rule. A Commission member shall not speak publicly about a confidential disciplinary proceeding, or about a public disciplinary proceeding before the Commission until the matter is final (i.e., no appeal has been filed and the time for appeal has expired, or if there is an appeal, until the mandate of the Supreme Court has issued.)
- File Destruction. Members shall ensure that all confidential documents in their possession are secured. Members shall return their complaint files of closed matters or matters in which the member is disqualified. Members are advised periodically as to which ongoing files they should have in their complaint notebooks.
- Former Members, Disciplinary Counsel, Investigative Counsel and Staff. These confidentiality rules also apply to former Commission members, disciplinary counsel, investigative counsel and staff with regard to information they had access to while serving the Commission.
Policy 3.2. Appearance of Impropriety
- Private Conduct. A member should respect and comply with the law and should conduct the member's personal and professional business at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the Commission.
- Independent Judgment. In discharging responsibilities, a member should not allow the member's family, social, or other relationships to influence the member's conduct or judgment.
- Prestige of Office. A member should not lend the prestige of the member's office to advance the private interests of others, nor convey or knowingly permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the member.
- Testimony before Commission. A member should not testify voluntarily as a character witness in a Commission proceeding.
- Financial Dealings. A member should refrain from financial and business dealings that directly or indirectly reflect adversely on the member's impartiality, interfere with the proper performance of Commission duties, or exploit the person's position as a member.
Policy 3.3. Political Activity
- Judicial Campaigns. No member shall participate in any state or local judicial campaign, except where the member is a candidate for judicial office. Members shall not endorse, nor contribute to campaigns for state or local judicial office or state or local judicial appointment. When a member is a leader of an organization that endorses or rates judicial candidates, the member shall not participate in that process.
- Non-Judicial Campaigns. A member who is involved in any other political campaign shall not make reference to the member's affiliation with the Commission or act in any way that may indicate support for the candidate by the Commission.
Policy 3.4. Use of Electronic Resources
- Purpose. The purpose of this policy is to communicate to Commission members and employees their limitations and responsibilities for proper use of state resources in general, information technology resources in general, and specifically computers, E-mail and Electronic Communications Resources, Systems and Services, and the Internet.
- State Resources Generally. Commission members and employees who use state-owned resources for any purpose are responsible for using the resources in an ethical, legal, and conservative manner. There are three distinct uses of state resources: (1) uses necessary to a member or an employee's conduct of official duties; (2) uses for a purpose other than the conduct of a member or an employee's official duties; and (3) uses which are prohibited.
- Uses Necessary to a Member or an Employee's Conduct of Official Duties. Commission on Judicial Conduct members and employees may, within their own discretion and as directed by their supervisor, use state resources to conduct their official duties.
- Uses for a Purpose Other Than the Conduct of a Member or an Employee's Official Duties. So long as the use does not involve one of the prohibited uses described below, Commission members and employees may make de minimus use of state resources for a purpose other than the conduct of official duties if the use:
- results in little or no cost to the state;
- is infrequent;
- is brief in duration;
- is the most effective use of time and resources;
- does not interfere with the performance of official duties;
- does not disrupt other members or employees;
- does not obligate other members or employees to make a personal use of state resources; and
- does not compromise the security or integrity of state property, information, or software
- Uses Which Are Prohibited. The following non-official duty uses are strictly prohibited and no de minimus use is
allowed. Commission members and employees are strictly prohibited from using state resources where that use involves:
Commission members and employees are not to allow others, such as family members and friends, to use state resources under
their control. State regulations prohibit commission members and employees from using state resources for personal purposes
and then reimbursing the state for the cost incurred. If a violation of these regulations occurs, the member or employee
will be required to reimburse the Commission, but the reimbursement does not cure the violation.
- any campaign or political use;
- conduct of an outside job or business;
- supporting, promoting, or soliciting for an outside organization or group, unless provided for by law or authorized by the Executive Director or
- illegal or inappropriate activities, including, but not limited to, activities that violate any Commission policy. This includes accessing pornographic or otherwise inappropriate sites that could bring the Commission into disrepute.
- Computers. All Commission-owned computers, including without limitation desktop, laptop, and iPad personal computers as well as Commission servers and other platforms, are provided to Commission members and employees for conducting state business. Commission members and employees are not to install or use on Commission computers or iPads any software that does not further state business purposes, such as games software. Valuable items (i.e. iPads, laptop computers, cellular phones, blackberry devices, digital cameras, etc.) must be secured and not left in plain sight when unattended. Loss, theft, or damage to any state owned equipment must be immediately reported to the Commission office.
- Use of State Computer Equipment at Home. Commission members and employees may use agency computer and iPad equipment at home or elsewhere to conduct Commission business. Recognized uses of state computer equipment include but are not limited to: preparation for Commission meetings, remote access to a state network for employment-related purposes, such as network maintenance, trouble-shooting or repair, and supervisory functions. Prior to receiving an iPad or other state computer equipment, members and employees shall sign a written use agreement.
- E-mail and Electronic Communications Resources, Systems and Services. Commission email is maintained in a closed system by the agency IT Manager. Commission members should, so far as possible, exclusively use the Commission email system for Commission-related emails. This helps ensure the security of the system and the confidentiality of Commission materials; and allows Commission emails to be maintained and researched efficiently in the event of public records requests, without the need to review personal or work email accounts of members or employees. Commission members and employees may not download software from the Internet without the permission and assistance of the IT Manager or his/her designee.
- No Expectation of Privacy. The Commission has the right to access, inspect, or monitor any Commission-owned State Resource and any Commission member or employee's use of a Commission-owned State Resource. Commission members and employees cannot expect privacy in their use of Commission-owned State Resources, whether that use is one made in their conduct of official duties or is a use made for a purpose other than the conduct of official duties. This applies to all Commission-owned State Resources, including, but not limited to, offices, desks, cabinets, telephones, voice mail, electronic mail, computer hard drives, storage lockers, network storage, and the Internet.
- Sanctions. Violations of this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment or membership on the Commission. In addition, there may be separate actions against the employee for violation of the state's ethics law, criminal prosecution, and civil action.
SECTION 4. COMMISSION PROCEEDING
Policy 4.1. Abstention
A member qualified to vote at a meeting of the Commission must vote in favor of or in opposition to each motion brought to a vote during that meeting, unless grounds exist for that member's disqualification.
Policy 4.2. Public Statements
After a judge has been served with a Statement of Charges, the Commission shall issue a public statement to the major wire services and to the local news media where the judge serves, and subsequently issues a public statement when a fact-finding hearing is set and when a final decision is filed.
Policy 4.3. Functions of Presiding Officer
- Role. The Commission or its Chair may select a presiding officer for a disciplinary proceeding. The role of the presiding officer includes making preliminary procedural rulings regarding discovery and other deadlines, and various issues of protocol as they may arise. Issues regarding more substantive or potentially dispositive matters shall be considered by the Commission hearing panel.
- Rulings. The presiding officer shall make interim rulings, which may be discussed and considered by the other members of the panel. When there is disagreement with a ruling by the presiding officer during a hearing, any other participating member may request a recess.
Policy 4.4. Questioning of Witnesses
Members may question witnesses during a hearing at the conclusion of counsel's interrogation, under the direction of the presiding officer.
Policy 4.5. Confidentiality of Proceedings
- Staff Contact. After the Statement of Charges is served on the respondent judge, members shall cease to have contact with the investigative staff concerning substantive matters in that proceeding. Any further interaction between members and investigative staff in that proceeding is limited to logistical matters, where necessary. Members may continue to contact the Executive Director and non-investigative staff in logistical and other collateral matters, such as scheduling of the hearing, the distribution of materials, and other duties. The Commission may direct the Executive Director to facilitate appropriate communications between the Commission, respondent, and disciplinary counsel.
- Member Deliberations. After the Statement of Charges is served on the respondent judge and prior to the commencement of the public hearing pursuant to CJCRP 24 in a matter, members shall not discuss testimony or evidence or the merits of the case with anyone other than Commission members and Commission counsel. Because member deliberations require the full participation of all hearing panel members, members are encouraged to limit discussions on a case to discussions with the full panel. If members discuss a case with other members other than with the full panel, however, they are encouraged to summarize those discussions for the full panel so that other members may benefit from those discussions. After the commencement of the public hearing under CJCRP 24 in a matter, members shall not discuss testimony or evidence or the merits of the case with anyone, including other members, until deliberations in that matter have commenced, at which time they may, as a panel, have such discussions with one another and with Commission counsel. After the Statement of Charges is served on the respondent judge, members shall not seek or consider information relating to a case except as presented to them in the proceeding or pursuant to the Commission's Rules of Procedure.
Policy 4.6. Recording of Proceedings
During disciplinary proceedings, recordings shall be allowed in facilities which permit such recordings (as cost and availability make it practical to reserve such facilities), provided the media personnel do not distract from the proceedings or impair the dignity of the proceedings. To keep the proceedings from becoming disrupted, media personnel are to observe the following:
- Equipment shall be mechanically quiet;
- Television and radio coverage should be pooled;
- No additional lights or flash shall be used;
- Once the proceeding has commenced, cameras should remain stationary until the proceeding has recessed;
- Equipment shall be located at a reasonable distance from subject(s) being photographed or video taped; and,
- No interview shall be conducted in the hearing room until the proceeding has recessed.
SECTION 5. MEMBER DISQUALIFICATION
Policy 5.1. Policy Disqualification - General
- Conditions for Disqualification. Members shall disqualify themselves when they cannot participate in a fair and reasonable manner or where their ability to do so might reasonably be questioned, including, for example, where the member:
- has a fixed bias or prejudice for or against the judge or complainant, or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts relating to the matter or proceeding;
- is a lawyer or judge, and served as a lawyer or judge in connection with any events relating to the matter or proceeding which is the subject of the complaint;
- is a lawyer and has a present or past substantial business association with the lawyer who is representing a party;
- has been a material witness in a matter before the Commission;
- has a spouse, child, or other immediate family member who has a financial interest in any events relating to the matter or proceeding, individually or as a fiduciary.
- Subject of Complaint. No member shall participate in a proceeding in which the member is the subject of the complaint, a party, or a material witness,
- Disqualification by Other Members. If a member is the subject of a complaint, remaining members should disqualify themselves if they have a manifest disqualifying interest or if they doubt their ability to function impartially, as provided in CJCRP 3(e)(1), unless such disqualification would result in a lack of a quorum under CJCRP 3(c).
- Unavailability of Member. Members who are not disqualified under CJC member policies from participating in a matter, but who are otherwise unable or unavailable to participate in a particular matter or proceeding, should disqualify themselves on the basis of their unavailability and should notify the Executive Director and the member's alternate member as promptly as possible. Members shall make all reasonable efforts to be available to participate in Commission work.
Policy 5.2. Disqualification by Lawyer - Members
- Prior Representation. If respondent's attorney has represented a member in the recent past, that member should disqualify himself or herself to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Disqualification based on prior representation for matters in the more distant past is discretionary, and depends on the circumstances of the representation, the agreement of the parties, and the genuine belief of the member as to whether he or she can serve impartially. Such member should disclose the date and nature of the prior representation to the parties and other members.
- Appearance before Respondent. When a lawyer-member is appearing before a judge for pretrial or trial proceedings and learns the judge is the subject of a complaint or investigation by the Commission, the lawyer-member shall disqualify himself or herself from participating in that matter.
- Request for Respondent's Disqualification. If a lawyer-member is representing a client in a matter which is assigned to a judge against whom the Commission has filed a Statement of Charges, the lawyer-member must seek the judge's disqualification, and, if disqualification is refused, the member shall disqualify himself or herself from participating on matters involving those charges before the Commission.
SECTION 6. PERSONNEL ADMINISTRATION
Policy 6.1. Annual Evaluations
The Commission will evaluate the Executive Director and investigative officer(s) annually. The Commission may, at its discretion, consult staff and personnel consultants.
Policy 6.2. Compensation
- Staff. Commission staff shall receive any salary increases that are accorded to employees of State government by the Legislature.
- Executive Director. The Commission shall establish the salary range for the Executive Director. From time to time, the Commission's Personnel Committee shall review and make recommendations regarding any changes to the range. After considering the annual performance appraisal conducted by the Personnel Committee, the Executive Committee shall set the salary for the Executive Director. Based upon the performance appraisal, the Executive Committee shall also determine any Cost of Living Adjustments established by the Legislature.
Policy 6.3. Complaints Concerning Staff
If a member receives a complaint (written or oral) from a complainant, judicial officer or any other person, about a Commission staff member, other than the Executive Director, the member shall refer the complaint either to the Executive Director, the Chair, or the acting Chair.
If a member receives a complaint about the Executive Director, the member shall refer the complaint to the Chair or acting Chair, who shall inform the Executive Committee. The Chair, Acting Chair or the Executive Committee may initiate an investigation. If the Chair, Acting Chair or Executive Committee is recused or unavailable for a significant period of time, then the complaint shall be referred to the Personnel Committee for a decision on further action or investigation. The Commission members shall be informed of investigative actions taken by the Chair, Acting Chair, Executive Committee or Personnel Committee.
SECTION 7. FINANCIAL RULES
Policy 7.1. Witness Fees
Pursuant to CJCRP 14(e) and WAC 292-09-150, witnesses appearing for the Commission will be paid in the same amount as the Superior Court pays in the judicial district in which the Commission hearing is being held.
Policy 7.2. Contracted Attorney Services
Pursuant to CJCRP 14(e) and WAC 292-09-150, witnesses appearing for the Commission will be paid in the same amount as the Superior Court pays in the judicial district in which the Commission hearing is being held.
Policy 7.3. Expense Reimbursement
- Lodging. Reimbursement for lodging expenses within 50 miles of an employee's or member's official residence or station is prohibited unless: 1) an overnight stay is necessary because of back-to-back evening/early morning meetings, or 2) an overnight stay is necessary to avoid driving in severe inclement weather, or 3) it is necessary to accommodate a health/safety issue or disability. An exception to this policy for other conditions, on a case-by-case basis, must be requested from the director of the Office of Financial Management (OFM). Any exception to this policy will be submitted to OFM through the Executive Director.
- Meal Reimbursement. Members will be reimbursed up to the state meal allowance if the following conditions are met:
- A member is in travel status during the entire meal period for the applicable meal allowance: Breakfast (7:00 a.m. - 8:00 a.m.); Lunch (12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.); and, Dinner (5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.) AND,
- A member is in travel status for at least three (3) hours beyond what is considered a regularly scheduled work day (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.). This is referred to as the three-hour rule. The three hours may consist of hours occurring before, after, or a combination of both before and after what is considered a regularly scheduled work day. NOTE: If a member qualifies for meal reimbursement under the three-hour rule and does not stay overnight, such reimbursement is considered a taxable fringe benefit, OR,
- A member incurred a cost for a meal that was an integral part of a meeting or training session (See Meals with Meetings below).
- Meals with Meetings. In accordance with regulations of the Office of Financial Management (OFM), the Executive Director may authorize expenditures for meals, coffee, and/or light refreshments at meetings or formal training sessions regardless of travel status and without regard to the three-hour rule when the purpose of the meeting is to conduct official state business or to provide training to state employees or state officials and the meals are an integral part of the business meeting or training session.
- Airfare. All airline reservations shall be made through the CJC office to ensure all legally mandated state contracts are adhered to. An exception to this rule would be if a flight was canceled and it was necessary for the traveler to purchase another ticket with personal funds in order to return home. Under this exception, the most economical flight should be chosen and reimbursement would be approved.
- Rental Cars. All reservations for rental cars shall be made through the CJC office to ensure that the state contract is adhered to. Rental cars should be used for official state business only. State regulations and other applicable laws strictly limit liability coverage to authorized state uses. Original receipts are necessary for gas purchases in order to claim reimbursement.
- Mileage Reimbursement. When a member drives a personal vehicle on agency business, he/she may claim mileage reimbursement at the current state per mile rate. The mileage shall be determined either by an actual odometer reading, from mapping software or from the official state mileage map.
- Combining Personal Travel with Business. Members may combine vacation or other personal travel with a legitimate CJC-related trip when; (1) the primary purpose of the trip is official state business; AND, (2) the agency does not incur any extra expenses beyond the normal expenses had the trip occurred without any personal time combined with the trip. Approval for reimbursement must be received from the Executive Director prior to the beginning of the trip.
Policy 7.4. Commission Member Compensation
Members shall be compensated at the rate allowed for 'class four' boards and commissions pursuant to RCW 43.03.250(2), for attending meetings of the Commission. The Chair shall designate official meetings or delegate the Executive Director to do so. Additionally, the Chair or his/her delegate, the Executive Director, may authorize compensation for members who attend other meetings, conferences, or conventions as bona fide representatives of the Commission. Members shall notify staff if they are ineligible for the compensation provided by RCW 43.03.250, or if they elect to waive receipt of compensation. A government-employed member may accept compensation only if the member is not employed full time by a government entity or does not receive compensation from such government-employer for that day. Any member may waive, in writing, in whole or in part, compensation for which the member is otherwise eligible on any given occasion.
For those members eligible to receive compensation for meeting attendance, there is a presumption that compensation is waived if the time to attend the meeting is less than two hours, including travel to and from the meeting. Members should consider the following nonexclusive factors in requesting compensation for meetings requiring less than two hours to attend:
- loss of income in order to participate;
- expenses undergone to participate such as care taking costs;
- any other expense that the commission should reasonably offset for the member's participation.