Judicial Conduct Commission’s special request

The state board that investigates and punishes misbehaving judges released its annual report today, and among the statistics were some interesting recommendations for state government.

First, the commission wants the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, to review all of their decisions — not just the ones that disciplined judges want them to review. Here’s the explanation:

“While it may be unusual for a government agency to encourage review of its decisions by a higher authority, the Commission believes this proposal promotes the public policy of checks-and-balances and the independence of the judiciary,” said Robert H. Tembeckjian, the Commission’s administrator.

The commission also restates its long-held request to open judicial disciplinary proceedings to the public. As a professional open government watchdog, three cheers to this request! It would be nice if New York joined 35 other states who already allow the public to attend such hearings. State Sen. John L. Sampson has introduced legislation to make such hearings to be public.

Some of the statistics in the report:

• 1,855 complaints received in 2009 – the second highest number ever, after last year’s 1,923.
• 5,489 complaints received since 2007 – 878 more than in any other 3-year period.
• 471 preliminary inquiries conducted in 2009, the most ever, up from 354 last year.
• 257 new investigations authorized in 2009 — the third highest ever.
25 public decisions rendered in 2009, up from 21 last year:
• 2 Removals from office
• 10 Public Censures
• 9 Public Admonitions
• 4 public stipulations in which judges under investigation or formal charges agreed to leave the bench and not to hold judicial office in the future
• 19 judges resigned while under investigation or while formal charges were
• 47 confidential cautionary letters were issued, up from 37 last year.
• 243 matters were pending at year’s end.