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State of Washington

What We Do - Complaint Process

Stage I - Preliminary Investigation

All complaints begin in the preliminary investigative stage and may be submitted by any organization, association or person, including a member of the Commission. An investigative officer makes a prompt, discreet preliminary investigation and recommends to the Commission whether to proceed to the second stage. The complaint and additional information are sent to each Commission member for review before the Commission meets. After initial review and evaluation, the Commission may dismiss the complaint, continue investigation, or commence initial proceedings. At any time, the Commission may retain disciplinary counsel to assist in the proceeding.

Stage II - Initial Proceedings

If the Commission moves the matter to initial proceedings, the Commission notifies and provides the judge an opportunity to respond to the allegations. The Commission may dismiss the complaint if there are no sufficient grounds for further proceedings.

At any time prior to final disposition, a matter may be resolved with a stipulation entered into in a public proceeding. The stipulation may impose any terms and conditions deemed appropriate by the Commission. A stipulation includes all material facts relating to the proceeding and the conduct of the judge.

If the Commission determines there is probable cause to believe that the judge has violated a rule of judicial conduct or is suffering from a disability that seriously interferes with the performance of judicial duties, it orders filing of a statement of charges.

Stage III - Statement of Charges and Fact-Finding Hearing

The statement of charges is approved by the Commission. The statement of charges is public after the judge has been served. The judge has 21 days to file an answer.

A fact-finding hearing is scheduled before the Commission after the answer is filed. The Commission members scheduled to participate in the fact-finding hearing receive no further factual information until the hearing is held or approval of a stipulation is sought. The judge has the opportunity to appear with or without counsel to defend against the charges. The fact-finding hearing is conducted publicly.

Stage IV - Decision and Appeal Process

At the conclusion of all formal proceedings, the Commission announces its decision in a public session. The Commission has the authority to dismiss the charges, or to admonish, reprimand or censure the judge. The Commission may also recommend the supreme court suspend or remove the judge. The Commission may recommend the supreme court retire a judge suffering from a disability. If the Commission decides to reprimand or censure a judge, the judge is required to appear personally before the Commission.

Within 30 days after the Commission admonishes, reprimands or censures a judge, the judge may file an appeal de novo to the supreme court. If the Commission recommends removal, the judge is suspended pending a final determination by the supreme court.