GUIDE TO THE ETHICAL OBLIGATIONS OF NEVADA JUDGES
AND FILING A COMPLAINT WITH THE
NEVADA COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL DISCIPLINE

P.O. Box 48
Carson City, NV  89702
www.judicial.state.nv.us
E-mail:  ncjdinfo@judicial.state.nv.us

Telephone:  775/687-4017
Facsimile:  775/687-3607

Doug Jones, Chairman
Gary Vause, Vice-Chairperson
David F. Sarnowski, Esq., General Counsel & Executive Director

 

Thank you for inquiring about judicial conduct and disability with the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline (the "Commission"). The Commission has been in existence since the mid-1970's and its authority is defined by the Nevada Constitution (Article 6, Section 21), the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS 1.425, et seq.) and by its own adopted Procedural Rules. The current versions of these requirements can be found in the laws of the State of Nevada, commonly called the Nevada Revised Statutes, available at local law or larger public libraries or the same information can be accessed on the Commission's web site found at www.judicial.state.nv.us.

At the start of our explanation about what the Commission does, and how it can assist you, it is important to understand that the Commission's powers are limited by Nevada law and are solely those of a regulator of judicial conduct and disability. The Commission is not an appellate court and generally has no power to overturn a decision of a judicial officer. Rather, the task of reviewing and addressing questions of legal error is normally performed by Nevada's appellate courts.

Rather than focus on the correctness of a decision, the Commission focuses on a judicial officer's conduct or disability. If the Commission finds that a judicial officer failed to adhere to the Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct (Part VI of the Nevada Supreme Court Rules) (the "Code"), as that Code is periodically amended by the Nevada Supreme Court, the Commission is granted the independent power to discipline or caution a judicial officer for failure to abide by the Code governing his or her conduct. In addition, if the Commission finds that a judicial officer can no longer carry out his or her judicial duties due to a significant disability, it may temporarily or permanently remove a judicial officer or impose conditions regarding the judicial officer's future duties.

Nevada Supreme Court Rules
Part VI. NEVADA CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT

Preamble

Our legal system is based on the principle that an independent, fair and competent judiciary will interpret and apply the laws that govern us. The role of the judiciary is central to American concepts of justice and the rule of law.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE COMMISSION

1. What does the Code regulate and what is a Canon?

The Code is based upon a model set of four Canons plus explanations (called Commentaries) that most of the States in the United States have adopted in the same or nearly the same form so as to govern judicial conduct similarly across the country. Canons are separate sections designed to state ethical rules applicable to judges. Each of the Canons express a related group of requirements that a judicial officer must abide by while serving in Nevada and acting as a judicial officer. These are not advisory or aspirational rules; rather, they are mandatory and binding. The five Canons deal with topics such as a judge remaining dignified or impartial; not deviating from the law; not failing to disqualify from a case due to bias or other reasons; what judicial officers can do with regard to outside interests including their own; how a judge should campaign for judicial office; and many additional topics.

2. Does the Code cover full-time and part-time judicial officers? How about magistrates and referees? How about attorneys?

The Code (and therefore the Commission) broadly covers full-time, part-time, pro tem and senior judicial officers, magistrates and referees who are part of the court system in Nevada. The Code and the Commission does not cover Federal system judges (even in Nevada), tribal or out-of-state judges. The Code and the Commission regulate only the conduct of judicial officers and not the conduct of other elected officials. The Code and the Commission do not regulate attorneys unless they are also judicial officers. If you wish to complain about a Nevada attorney please contact the State Bar of Nevada at (800) 254-2797 or (702) 382-2200.

3. I do not like the way a Nevada judicial officer handled my civil or criminal case. Should I file a complaint against him or her?

The decision to file a complaint is a serious step you should not take lightly or file simply to "get back" at a judicial officer for a decision you disagree with. You will be asked to sign a verified (sworn) complaint against the judge and this raises serious charges. If you file a complaint not within the jurisdiction of the Commission or a complaint that does not provide a reasonable inference of violation of one or more of the Code's Canons, it will likely be dismissed. Therefore, you should attempt to carefully state what the judicial officer did to violate the Code and provide reasonable and accurate details to support your claim. Recent statistics regarding Commission disciplinary activity efforts may be found on the Commission's Internet web site listed above.

4. If I file a complaint, can the judicial officer retaliate against me? Will the judge know I filed the complaint? Should I mention that I filed a complaint in court and try to change judges?

If the judicial officer retaliates against you for filing a complaint, that would be an unwise decision and could lead to additional charges of misconduct being lodged against the judicial officer. You should inform us if the judicial officer does engage in conduct of this type. Generally, the judicial officer will not be told you have complained about him or her (unless someone out of the Commission's control informs him or her). Only if the matter proceeds to an investigatory stage or to a stage where the judge's response is requested will the judicial officer learn of the complaint.

5. What discipline can the Commission give to a judicial officer who acts inappropriately? Will the public know if the judicial officer is disciplined?

Forms of punishment are set by the Nevada Legislature and the precise punishment deemed proper in any case is decided upon by the Commission after finding a violation. Punishment currently includes removal as its most serious remedy; however, removal requires an even higher level of proof than other sanctions. Sanctions of a less drastic nature are also possible and the ability to correct minor errors by cautionary warning is an additional option available to the Commission. Whether the general public learns of the final disposition of the case and any sanctions applied by the Commission or the disposition remains confidential depends upon whether the case became a formal (public) case or remained as a confidential matter. You will normally be informed of a case becoming public and until being so informed you should consider your case as confidential. If you are unsure if the case is formal or confidential, please ask the Commission or its staff before publicly announcing any disposition you might be informed about since you could violate existing law by mentioning the disposition of a confidential case.

6. Does filing a complaint give me more time to appeal my case?

No, it does not. You must timely file any appeal with the correct court if you wish to appeal. Filing a complaint with the Commission is a separate process and does not change any period(s) to appeal your case or decision. Do not file your appeal with the Commission.

7. How soon will the Commission address my complaint if I file one?

Normally Commission meetings are held quarterly (four times per year). You should receive confirming information from the Commission or its staff soon after filing your complaint about the planned date the Commission will fully consider your complaint. You are not asked to attend the Commission meeting since discussions about your matter by law are conducted in private session. If further information about your case is needed, you will be contacted.

8. Where can I obtain a complaint form and more information?

You can obtain a misconduct or disability complaint form and much more information from the Commission's Internet web site listed on the front page of this brochure; or, by writing the Commission; or, by calling or faxing your request to the Commission.

            

 

 


Last Updated: 07/24/13 03:16:01 PM