Bill S249-2013

Requires that an explanation as to the reason or reasons for the dismissal of a complaint be provided to the complainant

Requires that an explanation as to the reason or reasons for the dismissal of a complaint be provided to the complainant.

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  • Jan 8, 2014: REFERRED TO JUDICIARY
  • Jan 9, 2013: REFERRED TO JUDICIARY

Memo

BILL NUMBER:S249

TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the judiciary law, in relation to explanation of reasons for dismissal of complaints

PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: The purpose of this legislation is to make judicial disciplinary proceedings more open to public scrutiny by amending section 44 of the judiciary law.

SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS: Section 44(1) of the judiciary law is amended to indicate that if a complaint against a judge is dismissed, the Commission on Judicial Conduct must provide the basis for the determination.

Section 44(4) of the judiciary law is amended to indicate that disciplinary hearings shall be open to the public unless the complainant requests that the hearing be dosed. If the commission is acting in its capacity as a complainant, it may not request that the hearings be closed.

Section 44(6) of the judiciary law is amended to indicate that if a complaint is dismissed after a hearing, the Commission on Judicial Conduct must provide the basis for the determination.

JUSTIFICATION: This legislation will bring more openness and transparency to the process of judicial discipline in New York State. This bill will allow the Commission on Judicial Conduct to provide the basis for dismissing complaints rather than simply stating "There was insufficient indication of misconduct ". When a complaint details numerous allegations against a judge, even when those allegations are incorrect or unsubstantiated, the claimant has a right to know why those allegations failed. This legislation will help to bring closure to claimants seeking to bring charges against judges in New York. This legislation will also open the judicial disciplinary process. Judges are public officials whose actions on the Bench should be subject to public scrutiny. Thirty-five states currently provide for public hearings once charges have been brought against a judge. The United States Supreme Court stated in Waller v Georgia, 467 US 39,46 (1984) that "Openness in court proceedings may improve the quality of testimony, induce unknown witnesses to come forward with relevant testimony, cause all trial participants to perform their duties more conscientiously and generally give the public an opportunity to observe the justice system." This bill will provide the public with such opportunities to observe the system and ensure that fairness and the Rule of Law are followed in judicial disciplinary proceedings. Most legal proceedings from simple hearings on speeding tickets to capital murder cases are heard throughout New York in open courts. This legislation continues that trend of openness and sunshine by removing the shroud of confidentiality surrounding judicial disciplinary proceedings in New York.

As Victor Kovner of the Fund for Modern Courts observed "The need for openness and transparency at the hearing stage will provide the public with greater opportunity to understand and witness the process at disciplinary hearings. Confidence in the process is essential to the success of the system. It will provide a judge with an opportunity to be heard in public thus removing any rumor or innuendo that might remain after a private hearing, that might linger after the Commission exonerates a judge."

PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: S.1713 of 2011 01/11/11 REFERRED TO JUDICIARY 01/04/12 REFERRED TO JUDICIARY

FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None.

EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect immediately.


Text

STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 249 2013-2014 Regular Sessions IN SENATE (PREFILED) January 9, 2013 ___________
Introduced by Sen. SAMPSON -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Judiciary AN ACT to amend the judiciary law, in relation to explanation of reasons for dismissal of complaints THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Section 44 of the judiciary law, as added by chapter 156 of the laws of 1978, is amended to read as follows: S 44. Complaint; investigation; hearing and disposition. 1. The commission shall receive, initiate, investigate and hear complaints with respect to the conduct, qualifications, fitness to perform, or perform- ance of official duties of any judge, and, in accordance with the provisions of subdivision d of section twenty-two of article six of the constitution, may determine that a judge be admonished, censured or removed from office for cause, including, but not limited to, misconduct in office, persistent failure to perform his duties, habitual intemper- ance and conduct, on or off the bench, prejudicial to the administration of justice, or that a judge be retired for mental or physical disability preventing the proper performance of his judicial duties. A complaint shall be in writing [and signed by the complainant and, if directed by the commission, shall be verified]. Upon receipt of a complaint (a) the commission shall conduct an investigation of the complaint; or (b) the commission may dismiss the complaint if it determines that the complaint on its face lacks merit. If the complaint is dismissed, the commission shall [so notify] PROVIDE THE BASIS FOR THE DETERMINATION FOR THE DISMISSAL TO the complainant. If the commission shall have notified the judge of the complaint, the commission shall also notify the judge of such dismissal. 2. The commission may, on its own motion, initiate an investigation of a judge with respect to his qualifications, conduct, fitness to perform
or the performance of his official duties. Prior to initiating any such investigation, the commission shall file as part of its record a written complaint, signed by the administrator of the commission, which complaint shall serve as the basis for such investigation. 3. In the course of an investigation, the commission may require the appearance of the judge involved before it, in which event the judge shall be notified in writing of his required appearance, either personally, at least three days prior to such appearance, or by certi- fied mail, return receipt requested, at least five days prior to such appearance. In either case a copy of the complaint shall be served upon the judge at the time of such notification. The judge shall have the right to be represented by counsel during any and all stages of the investigation in which his appearance is required and to present eviden- tiary data and material relevant to the complaint. A transcript shall be made and kept with respect to all proceedings at which testimony or statements under oath of any party or witness shall be taken, and the transcript of the judge's testimony shall be made available to the judge without cost. Such transcript shall be confidential except as otherwise permitted by section forty-five of this article. 4. If in the course of an investigation, the commission determines that a hearing is warranted it shall direct that a formal written complaint signed and verified by the administrator be drawn and served upon the judge involved, either personally or by certified mail, return receipt requested. The judge shall file a written answer to [the] the complaint with the commission within twenty days of such service. If, upon receipt of the answer, or upon expiration of the time to answer, the commission shall direct that a hearing be held with respect to the complaint, the judge involved shall be notified in writing of the date of the hearing either personally, at least twenty days prior thereto, or by certified mail, return receipt requested, at least twenty-two days prior thereto. Upon the written request of the judge, the commission shall, at least five days prior to the hearing or any adjourned date thereof, make available to the judge without cost copies of all docu- ments which the commission intends to present at such hearing and any written statements made by witnesses who will be called to give testimo- ny by the commission. The commission shall, in any case, make available to the judge at least five days prior to the hearing or any adjourned date thereof any exculpatory evidentiary data and material relevant to the complaint. The failure of the commission to timely furnish any docu- ments, statements and/or exculpatory evidentiary data and material provided for herein shall not affect the validity of any proceedings before the commission provided that such failure is not substantially prejudicial to the judge. The complainant may be notified of the hearing and unless he shall be subpoenaed as a witness by the judge, his pres- ence thereat shall be within the discretion of the commission. The hear- ing shall [not] be public [unless the judge involved shall so demand in writing]. HOWEVER, THE COMMISSION MAY CLOSE THE PROCEEDINGS TO THE PUBLIC AT THE REQUEST OF THE COMPLAINANT UNLESS THE COMPLAINANT IS THE COMMISSION ITSELF PURSUANT TO SUBDIVISION TWO OF THIS SECTION. At the hearing the commission may take the testimony of witnesses and receive evidentiary data and material relevant to the complaint. The judge shall have the right to be represented by counsel during any and all stages of the hearing and shall have the right to call and cross-examine witnesses and present evidentiary data and material relevant to the complaint. A transcript of the proceedings and of the testimony of witnesses at the hearing shall be taken and kept with the records of the commission. SUCH
TRANSCRIPT SHALL BE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC UNLESS THE HEARING WAS CLOSED AT THE REQUEST OF THE COMPLAINANT. 5. Subject to the approval of the commission, the administrator and the judge may agree on a statement of facts and may stipulate in writing that the hearing shall be waived. In such a case, the commission shall make its determination upon the pleadings and the agreed statement of facts. 6. If, after a formal written complaint has been served pursuant to subdivision four of this section, or during the course of or after a hearing, the commission determines that no further action is necessary, the complaint shall be dismissed and the complainant and the judge shall be so notified in writing. THE COMMISSION SHALL PROVIDE THE BASIS FOR THE DETERMINATION FOR THE DISMISSAL TO THE COMPLAINANT. 7. After a hearing, the commission may determine that a judge be admonished, censured, removed or retired. The commission shall transmit its written determination, together with its findings of fact and conclusions of law and the record of the proceedings upon which its determination is based, to the chief judge of the court of appeals who shall cause a copy thereof to be served either personally or by certi- fied mail, return receipt requested, on the judge involved. Upon completion of service, the determination of the commission, its findings and conclusions and the record of its proceedings shall be made public and shall be made available for public inspection at the principal office of the commission and at the office of the clerk of the court of appeals. The judge involved may either accept the determination of the commission or make written request to the chief judge, within thirty days after receipt of such determination, for a review thereof by the court of appeals. If the commission has determined that a judge be admonished or censured, and if the judge accepts such determination or fails to request a review thereof by the court of appeals, the commis- sion shall thereupon admonish or censure him in accordance with its findings. If the commission has determined that a judge be removed or retired, and if the judge accepts such determination or fails to request a review thereof by the court of appeals, the court of appeals shall thereupon order his removal or retirement in accordance with the find- ings of the commission. 8. (a) The court of appeals may suspend a judge or justice from exer- cising the powers of his office while there is pending a determination by the commission for his removal or retirement, or while he is charged in this state with a felony by an indictment or an information filed pursuant to section six of article one of the constitution. The suspen- sion shall continue upon conviction and, if the conviction becomes final, he shall be removed from office. The suspension shall be termi- nated upon reversal of the conviction and dismissal of the accusatory instrument. (b) Upon the recommendation of the commission or on its own motion, the court may suspend a judge or justice from office when he is charged with a crime punishable as a felony under the laws of this state, or any other crime which involves moral turpitude. The suspension shall contin- ue upon conviction and, if the conviction becomes final, he shall be removed from office. The suspension shall be terminated upon reversal of the conviction and dismissal of the accusatory instrument. (c) A judge or justice who is suspended from office by the court shall receive his judicial salary during such period of suspension, unless the court directs otherwise. If the court has so directed and such suspen-
sion is thereafter terminated, the court may direct that he shall be paid his salary for such period of suspension. (d) Nothing in this subdivision shall prevent the commission from determining that a judge or justice be admonished, censured, removed, or retired pursuant to subdivision seven of this section. 9. In its review of a determination of the commission, the court of appeals shall review the commission's findings of fact and conclusions of law on the record of the proceedings upon which the commission's determination was based. After such review, the court may accept or reject the determined sanction; impose a different sanction including admonition, censure, removal or retirement for the reasons set forth in subdivision one of this section; or impose no sanction. 10. If during the course of or after an investigation or hearing, the commission determines that the complaint or any allegation thereof warrants action, other than in accordance with the provisions of subdi- visions seven and eight of this section, within the powers of: (a) a person having administrative jurisdiction over the judge involved in the complaint [or;]; OR (b) an appellate division of the supreme court; or (c) a presiding justice of an appellate division of the supreme court; or (d) the chief judge of the court of appeals; or (e) the governor; or (f) an applicable district attorney's office or other prosecuting agen- cy, the commission shall refer such complaint or the appropriate allega- tions thereof and any evidence or material related thereto to such person, agency or court for such action as may be deemed proper or necessary. 11. The commission shall notify the complainant of its disposition of the complaint. S 2. This act shall take effect immediately.

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