Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
Q: Should my complaint be typewritten?
A: Typewritten or word-processed complaints are preferred, but legible handwritten complaints are acceptable.
Q: Who can submit a complaint?
A: Anyone who is familiar with the facts of the alleged judicial misconduct. While the complainant is usually a litigant, complaints may be filed by family members, spectators, lawyers, jurors, or others who have knowledge of the alleged misconduct.
Q: May I fax or email the complaint?
A: The Commission prefers original, signed documents but will accept faxed and emailed complaints. Please understand that while the Commission will accept complaints through email, all responses from the Commission will be sent through regular mail.
Q: Should I meet personally with the Executive Director to explain my complaint?
A: Normally this is not necessary. The Executive Director will contact you if a personal interview is necessary.
Q: Should I explain my complaint to the Executive Director by phone?
A: It is helpful to have a conversation with the Executive Director before filing, so that you understand what is required, and you may contact the Executive Director at any time to provide additional information or to inquire about the status of a complaint. All correspondence, phone calls, and other communications with the Commission should be directed to the Executive Director.
Q: Should I submit copies of court orders, exhibits, or other documentation that was part of the trial?
A: Court orders and exhibits that document the alleged misconduct are useful to the Commission. Use your best judgment in submitting written materials that may be relevant. Do not submit anything that does not bear on the alleged misconduct.
Q: Is it necessary to obtain statements of other persons who witnessed the acts that I believe involved judicial conduct?
A: It is helpful to provide statements from other parties who have firsthand knowledge of what occurred, but each complaint is unique. The Commission does not require or prohibit the submission of such statements.
Q: Do I have to submit transcripts or recordings of the proceedings?
A: If transcripts or CD recordings of the proceedings are available, they should be submitted. However, partial transcripts or audio excerpts that focus directly on the alleged misconduct are more useful than the full record of the proceedings.
Q: Will the judge be notified that I filed a complaint?
A: The filing of a complaint will not automatically result in the judge being notified. The Executive Director will screen a complaint to determine if it is within the Commission's jurisdiction. If it passes this screening process, then the Commission is required to notify the judge of the grounds that have been alleged and the identity of the complainant, and invite him or her to respond to the allegations. The Commission may conduct an independent investigation or make such further inquiries as it deems necessary in order to evaluate the allegations. However, the Constitution requires that the papers and proceedings of the Commission – including the complaint and its disposition by the Commission -- remain confidential.
Q: When will I be notified regarding the status of my complaint?
A: Normally, complaints are screened within 10 business days of receipt. If a complaint passes the initial screening, it will be considered by the Commission at its next meeting. The Commission generally meets bi-monthly, so the timing of a decision depends on the date of the next meeting. If the Commission decides to pursue the complaint further, the Executive Director will notify both you and the judge and will request the judge's response. We will update you or contact you for further information, as needed. Notice of a decision by the Commission will be provided to you and the judge as soon as it is practical to do so.
Most judicial discipline is handled by private letters of admonition, reprimand, or censure, which are directed at correcting or improving the judge's conduct, but may also include requirements for training, counseling, rehabilitation, or periodic reports on docket management. However, the Rules also provide for formal proceedings which may become public, if the Commission recommends public censure or removal.
Q. I think the judge may have been biased against me. Is bias or prejudice a basis for a complaint?
A. Yes, but keep in mind that a judge's decisions are required to be based on the evidence and applicable law. Judges are called on to make hard choices in resolving differences between litigants, especially in cases where the emotions of the parties run high. A decision that does not apply the law correctly may be mistaken to be misconduct; such cases belong in the appellate courts rather than with the Commission.
Given the intense nature of litigation, it is understandable for a litigant to wonder if the judge can remain impartial and objective. Judges have hundreds of cases on their dockets at any given time; they are human and occasionally make mistakes, but mistakes in analyzing the facts or in misreading of the law aren't necessarily signs of bias. If there is evidence in the record that supports the judge's decision, even though the evidence presented by one of the litigants contradicts that evidence, or if the law allows some flexibility in its application and the judge's legal conclusions are consistent with precedent, then the judge's ruling is generally not the result of judicial bias.
The Commission will carefully consider a complaint that alleges bias, but it needs information focusing specifically on a judge's conduct, rather than advocacy that alleges errors in the court's findings of fact, rulings on the law, or final judgment.
Q: Why can't the Commission overrule a judge's decision?
A: The Commission was established by the Colorado Constitution, just as the courts were established under the Constitution. The Commission reviews conduct, while the appellate courts review the facts and applicable law. The Commission is not authorized to rule on factual and legal disputes involved in motions and trials since the courts themselves are given exclusive jurisdiction over trials and appeals under the Constitution and also by Colorado Revised Statutes. If the Commission attempted to revise or reverse a judge's decision, then it would be displacing the function that is reserved for the courts. It simply does not have the jurisdiction to modify or reverse decisions of a trial or appellate court or to intervene in a trial or an appeal.
Rule 5(e) of the Colorado Rules of Judicial Discipline expressly provides that the Commission is to take no action against a judge for making an erroneous decision that is subject to appellate review. Rule 13 requires the dismissal of complaints which are appellate in nature or outside the jurisdiction of the Commission.
The Commission encourages a party who is disappointed with the outcome of a case to consider filing an appeal. The Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court receive and consider appeals from the trial courts, except for certain decisions of the County Courts which are to be appealed to the District Court. You should examine the appellate procedures and seek the advice of an attorney regarding your appeal rights.
However, if a party believes there are grounds for judicial misconduct as well as grounds for an appellate court to reverse or revise a decision, both an appeal and complaint to the Commission can be filed.
Q: If I intend to appeal, will filing a complaint with the Commission affect my appeal in any way?
A: No. Since the Commission only reviews the conduct of the judge under the Rules of Judicial Discipline and the Code of Judicial Conduct, any action it might take, including dismissal or disciplinary action, will have no impact on the appeal. Please understand that filing a complaint with the Commission will not stay or extend any time limits that may apply to a motion for new trial or an appeal.
Q: What if I have a complaint about a municipal judge, magistrate, prosecutor, public defender, my lawyer, my adversary's lawyer, an administrative law judge, or a federal judge?
A: The Commission is authorized to consider only those complaints that allege misconduct by judges of Colorado state courts, which includes judges of the County Courts, District Courts, and Court of Appeals and justices of the Supreme Court.
Municipal judges are employed by the community in which they office, rather than by the State of Colorado. Complaints regarding municipal judges should be addressed to the administrative offices of the city or town which employs them. Certain of the larger cities have established procedures for addressing complaintsregarding the conduct of their municipal judges; you should check with the municipality to determine what procedures may be available to handle such a complaint.
General information regarding municipal judges is available on the web through search engines under the topic of Colorado Municipal Judges. The decisions of municipal judges generally are appealable to the state courts. One should carefully examine the applicable rules and procedures that apply to such appeals. Important time limits may apply.
County Court judges in the City and County of Denver exercise dual jurisdiction as state judges and municipal judges, and are not under the Commission's jurisdiction. Complaints regarding the conduct of Denver County Court judges should be addressed to:
Denver County Court Commission on Judicial Discipline
1437 Bannock Street, Room 108
Denver, CO 80202
(720) 865 7870
The conduct of lawyers, whether serving as municipal judges, magistrates, private attorneys, district attorneys, public defenders, or administrative law judges (hearing officers), is subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct that apply to all lawyers. Complaints regarding the conduct of lawyers serving in such capacities may be directed to:
Office of Attorney Regulation
1300 Broadway, Suite 500
Denver, CO 80203
(303) 457 5800
The decisions of magistrates, as distinguished from their professional conduct, generally are appealable to the district court in the judicial district where they are employed. In addition, it may be appropriate to advise the Chief Judge of the local judicial district of concerns one may have about a magistrate. Complaints regarding the conduct of the federal judiciary may be addressed to the administrative offices of the federal court.