Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can the Commission change the legal ruling in my case?
The Commission does not have appellate jurisdiction, therefore it cannot in any way change the legal ruling in your case or direct a judge to take legal action or reverse his or her ruling. An error in a judge’s ruling, in and of itself, does not constitute misconduct. In the absence of fraud, corrupt motive, or bad faith, the Commission shall not consider allegations against a judge for making findings of fact, reaching a legal conclusion, or applying the law as he or she understands it.
2. Can the Commission help me with my case?
The Commission has no authority to provide legal advice or assistance to you regarding your case, whether your case is civil or criminal in nature. In the event you need help with your case or would like to change the outcome of your case, you should contact an attorney.
3. If I file an appeal, will filing a complaint with the Commission affect my appeal in any way?
Filing a complaint with the Commission will not affect your appeal. Any complaint filed with the Commission is separate from any case you have pending or anticipate filing with the court.
4. Can the Commission make or request that a judge recuse himself from my case?
The Commission has no authority or jurisdiction to require or request a judge recuse from a case.
5. Who can file a complaint?
Any citizen, litigant, attorney, law enforcement official, judge, public official, or other individual who has knowledge of possible judicial misconduct may file a complaint with the Commission. Complaints may also be filed anonymously. Additionally, the Commission may file a complaint on its own motion based upon matters it learns of in other ways, such as from mass media and information obtained during the course of an investigation.
6. What types of sanctions can the Commission impose on a judge?
The Commission can take informal commission action against a judge, which is imposed on a judge as a warning for small violations that do not warrant other actions; privately admonish a justice or judge pursuant to Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated Section 9-19-11; and make recommendation to the Mississippi Supreme Court that any justice or judge of this state be removed from office, suspended, fined or publicly censured or reprimanded, or involuntarily retire any justice or judge for physical or mental disability seriously interfering with the performance of his duties, where the disability is likely to become permanent.
7. What is the purpose of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance?
The Commission was created in 1979 by the Mississippi Legislature and the voters of the State of Mississippi by constitutional amendment for the following purposes: to enforce the standards of judicial conduct, to inquire into judicial disability and conduct, to protect the public from judicial misconduct and disabled judges, and to protect the judiciary from unfounded allegations.
8. Does the Commission have jurisdiction over a judge who has resigned?
If a judge resigns from office, the Commission shall retain jurisdiction over that judge if prior to his resignation the Commission has initiated an inquiry into the conduct of the judge.
9. What is judicial misconduct?
Actual conviction of a felony in a court other than a Mississippi court; willful misconduct in office; willful and persistent failure to perform his duties; habitual intemperance in the use of alcohol or other drugs; conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the judicial office into disrepute; physical or mental disability seriously interfering with the performance of duties and such disability is or is likely to become permanent; any willful violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct; and any violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct as adopted by the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Some examples of judicial misconduct include abuse of contempt power, failure to disqualify when required by law, ex parte communication, and improper demeanor.
10. Who does the Commission have authority over?
Anyone, whether or not a lawyer, who is an officer of a judicial system and who performs judicial functions, including an officer such as a magistrate, court commissioner, special master or referee, are subject to the Commission’s authority, as well as part-time and special judges with certain exceptions.
This includes a Justice of the Supreme Court or a judge of the Court of Appeals, Circuit Court, Chancery Court, County Court, Family Court, Justice Court, Municipal Court, and all other courts in existence in Mississippi, including someone serving as a part-time judge, special judge or a judge in senior status.
11. What are the duties and responsibilities of the Commission?
To receive, investigate, process and prosecute where applicable allegations of judicial misconduct and disability, and where appropriate, recommend judicial discipline to the Mississippi Supreme Court, in accordance with Section 177A of the Mississippi Constitution.
12. Will the judge be notified that I filed a complaint?
The filing of a complaint will not automatically result in the judge being notified. In some cases, where a judge’s response is necessary he or she may be notified that a complaint has been filed and asked to address the allegations contained in a complaint.
13. What happens after my complaint is filed?
The full Commission reviews all incoming complaints and decides whether or not the complaint should be investigated or dismissed. If the Commission decides to dismiss the initial complaint, the Complainant is notified in writing of the dismissal, and the file is closed. The Commission dismisses complaints that are as follows:
• not within the Commission’s jurisdiction;
• lack sufficient evidence;
• relate only to claimed errors of law or fact; or
• are unfounded.
If the initial complaint is not dismissed, an investigation may be ordered by the Commission. The complaint will be investigated and the findings of that investigation will be presented to the Commission for action. Thereafter, the Commission can dispose of the complaint in one of the following ways:
• finds that there was no misconduct and dismisses the case;
• finds misconduct has occurred and believes a private admonishment is adequate discipline, then issues the admonishment and notifies the complainant and the Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court of its action;
• enters into a Memorandum of Understanding with the judge concerning his or her future conduct or submission to professional treatment or counseling; or
• finds probable cause exists to require a formal hearing, and the judge is notified by service of notice and a formal complaint.
14. How long does it take to resolve a complaint?
The length of time it takes to resolve a complaint is dependent upon the complexity of the issues involved and the extent of any required investigation. Therefore, it is difficult to predict how long it will take to reach a final decision regarding a complaint.
15. May I withdraw or drop my complaint, once it has been submitted to the Commission?
Once a complaint has been submitted to the Commission, it is up to the Commission to decide whether or not they want to dismiss or investigate the complaint. If the Commission decides to file a formal complaint against a judge, the Commission becomes the plaintiff/accuser, and the complainant becomes a possible witness for the Commission.