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Complaints Against Judges - Judicial Business 2014

Under the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 351-64, any person alleging that a judge has engaged in conduct prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts, or that a judge cannot discharge all the duties of the office because of physical or mental disability, may file a complaint with the clerk of the court of appeals for the circuit in which the judge holds office or, if the judge serves on a national court, with the office specified in that court's rules. The complaint must concern the actions or capacity of a circuit judge, a district judge, a bankruptcy judge, a magistrate judge, or a judge of a court specified in 28 U.S.C. § 363.

The number of complaints filed in 2014 was 1,233, less than 1 percent above the number filed in 2013. Fifty-five percent of complainants were litigants, and 38 percent were prison inmates. Fifty-five percent of the complaints were made against district judges, 20 percent were against circuit judges, 19 percent were against magistrate judges, and 6 percent were against bankruptcy judges. The categories of allegations with the most complaints were erroneous decision (973), personal bias against the litigant or attorney (321), other misconduct (287), and conflict of interest (119).

Table 10 Judicial Complaints Commenced, Terminated, and Pending Fiscal Years 2012 - 2014
  20121 20131 2014
Complaints Commenced 1,368 1,223 1,233
Complaints Terminated by Final Action 1,251 1,213 1,417
By Withdrawal      
Complaint Withdrawn by Complainant 7 4 2
Petition for Review Withdrawn 0 2 0
By Chief Judges With No Further Review      
Dismissed 717 638 861
Concluded2 8 6 16
By Judicial Councils      
Upon Petition for Review of Chief Judge's Disposition      
Chief Judge's Disposition Affirmed 518 559 532
Other Action 0 0 3
After Report by Special Investigating Committee      
Dismissed 1 2 3
Other Disposition 0 0 0
Referred to Judicial Conference 0 0 0
Remedial Action 0 2 0
Complaints Pending 830 840 656
Special Investigating Committee Appointed 5 3 4
1 Revised.
2 Concluded due to informal resolution, voluntary resolution, or intervening events.

Chief judges dismissed 1,480 complaints in whole or in part. This total includes complaints that later were terminated with finality by judicial council orders on petitions for review or that remained pending for further review. Frequently cited reasons for dismissal were the following: the complaint was directly related to the merits of decisions or procedural rulings (81 percent); the allegations lacked sufficient evidence (68 percent); and the allegations were frivolous (17 percent) (the percentages total more than 100 percent because multiple reasons may be recorded for each dismissal).

Of the complaints filed in 2014 or pending from previous years, 1,417 were terminated by final action. Of the 877 complaints terminated by chief judges, 861 were terminated by dismissal, and 16 were terminated by voluntary resolution or intervening events. Of the 538 complaints terminated by judicial councils, 532 were terminated after the chief judges’ dispositions were affirmed, 3 after other actions took place (the matters were returned to the chief judges), and 3 after reports by special investigating committees were issued. Two complaints were terminated because the complainants withdrew them after filing the initial complaints. Because the number of complaints terminated exceeded the number commenced, pending complaints declined 22 percent to 656.

For information on complaints filed against judges, see Table 10 and Table S-22.