Solution #3: More Accountability For Decisions Not To Prosecute Judges

In Minnesota, the agency authorized to prosecute judges for violations of the Judicial Canons (the ethics code for judges) is the Judicial Standards Board.  Many Minnesotans have expressed disappointment or distrust when the JSB has dismissed their complaints, and many believe that righteous complaints are merely dismissed.  This problem is not limited to Minnesota.

In Tennessee, the agency charged with ensuring that judges obey their ethics rules and are fit to serve on the bench is called the Court of the Judiciary.  Out of 334 complaints against judges filed by Tennesseeans last fiscal year, the overwhelming majority were dismissed.  The panel issued nine public reprimands, six private reprimands and three deferred discipline agreements.

The Tennessee Assembly recently passed a bill that would do away with the Court of the judiciary, and replace it with a 16-member replace it with a 16-member Board of Judicial Conduct.  (Review HB2935).

The Governor is considering the legislation, which would make it more difficult to dismiss complaints filed by members of the public.

Under the old system, most complaints were dismissed by the court’s disciplinary counsel selected by the judges on the Court of the Judiciary. The new system will have a three-member panel investigating each complaint, and its action will be reviewed by a six-member panel,

reported Associated Press, see full story here.

The legislation will  make it harder for the agency to just dismiss citizen complaints.

Under the proposal, the board must report four times a year to the chief clerk of each legislative chamber, information that includes “complaints opened, closed or pending” and “the number of complaints for which probable cause has been found.”