No complaint may be dismissed, no investigation may be commenced, and no formal charges may be filed by staff without authorization by the Commission.
The Commission meets several times a year. At its meetings, the Commission reviews each new complaint of misconduct and makes an initial decision whether to investigate or dismiss the complaint. It also reviews staff reports on ongoing matters, makes final determinations on completed proceedings, considers motions and entertains oral arguments pertaining to cases in which judges have been served with formal charges, and conducts other Commission business.
After the Commission authorizes an investigation, the Administrator assigns the complaint to a staff attorney, who works with investigative staff. If appropriate, witnesses are interviewed and court records are examined. The judge may be asked to respond in writing to the allegations. In some instances, the Commission requires the appearance of the judge to testify during the course of the investigation. The judge's testimony is under oath, and at least one Commission member or a referee must be present. Although such an "investigative appearance" is not a formal hearing, the judge is entitled to be represented by counsel. The judge may also submit evidentiary data and materials for the Commission's consideration.
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If the Commission finds after an investigation that the circumstances warrant, it will direct its Administrator to serve the judge with a Formal Written Complaint containing specific charges of misconduct. The Formal Written Complaint institutes the formal disciplinary proceeding. After receiving the judge's answer, the Commission may, if it determines there are no disputed issues of fact, grant a motion for summary determination. It may also accept an agreed statement of facts submitted by the Administrator and the respondent-judge.
Where there are factual disputes that make summary determination inappropriate or that are not resolved by an agreed statement of facts, the Commission will appoint a referee to conduct a formal hearing and report proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. Referees are designated by the Commission from a panel of attorneys and former judges.
Following the Commission's receipt of the referee's report, both the administrator and the respondent may submit legal memoranda and present oral argument on issues of misconduct and sanction. The respondent-judge (in addition to his or her counsel) may appear and be heard at oral argument before the Commission.
In deciding motions, considering proposed agreed statements of fact and making determinations with respect to misconduct and sanction, and in considering other matters pertaining to cases in which Formal Written Complaints have been served, the Commission deliberates in executive session, without the presence or assistance of its Administrator or regular staff. The Clerk of the Commission assists the Commission in executive session, but does not participate in either an investigative or adversarial capacity in any cases pending before the Commission.
The Commission may dismiss a complaint at any stage during the investigation or adjudication.
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When the Commission determines that a judge should be admonished, censured, removed or retired, its written determination is forwarded to the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court.
The Court serves the determination upon the respondent-judge and, upon completion of service, the Commission's determination and the record of its proceedings become public. (Prior to this point, all proceedings and records are confidential.) The respondent-judge has 30 days to request full review of the Commission's determination by the Court of Appeals.
The Court may accept or reject the Commission's findings of fact or conclusions of law, make new or different findings of fact or conclusions of law, accept or reject the determined sanction, or make a different determination as to sanction. If no request for review is made within 30 days, the sanction determined by the Commission becomes effective.
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