Commission on Judicial Performance

Commission on Judicial Performance is an independent state agency responsible for investigating complaints of judicial misconduct and judicial incapacity and for disciplining state judges (see article VI, section 18 of the California Constitution). The commission has authority to impose certain discipline on former judges and has shared authority with local courts over court commissioners and referees (see article VI, section 18.1 of the California Constitution). The commission does not have authority over temporary judges (also called judges pro tem) or private judges. All commission proceedings are required to be public after formal charges are filed.

Under article VI, section 18(d) of the California Constitution, the commission may

  • Remove a judge or censure a judge or former judge for action that constitutes willful misconduct in office, persistent failure or inability to perform the judge's duties, habitual intemperance in the use of intoxicants or drugs, or conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute;
  • Publicly or privately admonish a judge or former judge found to have engaged in improper action or dereliction of duty; and
  • Retire a judge for disability that seriously interferes with the performance of the judge's duties and is or is likely to become permanent.

The commission also may bar a former judge who has been censured from receiving an assignment, appointment, or reference of work from any California state court. Determinations by the commission to remove, censure, admonish, or retire a judge are subject to discretionary review by the California Supreme Court.

The commission is composed of 11 members: 3 judges appointed by the California Supreme Court, 4 members appointed by the Governor (2 attorneys and 2 nonattorney public members), 2 public members appointed by the Assembly Speaker, and 2 public members appointed by the Senate Rules Committee. Appointments are for four-year terms.

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