The Court on the Judiciary


Frequently Asked Questions


Answer: Anyone with information that a Delaware judicial officer may have committed misconduct, as defined in Article IV, Section 37 of the Delaware Constitution, may file a complaint with the Court on the Judiciary.

Answer: Supreme Court Justices; Court of Chancery Chancellor and Vice Chancellors; Superior Court Judges and Commissioners; Family Court Judges and Commissioners; Court of Common Pleas Judges and Commissioners; Justice of the Peace Court Magistrates.

Answer:

Court of Chancery Masters;
Superior Court Special Masters;
Federal Judges;
Attorneys;
Law enforcement officials;
Court personnel.

Answer: Under Article IV, Section 37 of the Delaware Constitution, judicial misconduct is wilful misconduct in office, wilful and persistent failure to perform duties, the commission of an offense involving moral turpitude, and other persistent misconduct in violation of the Delaware Judges' Code of Judicial Conduct.

Wilful misconduct in office and wilful and persistent failure to perform duties is the improper or wrongful use of the power of judicial office by a judge acting intentionally, knowingly, voluntarily, or with gross unconcern for the judge's conduct, which would bring the judicial office into disrepute.

Persistent misconduct can include negligent conduct when there is evidence of a deliberate and persistent pattern.

For example, judicial misconduct has been found when there is clear and convincing evidence of:

A persistent failure to pay taxes;
Seeking a non-judicial elective office while in judicial office;
A persistent pattern of delay in decision-making;
Persistently impeding efficient court scheduling through chronic tardiness;
Abusing the prestige of judicial office to advance private interests;
Presiding over a case in which the judge has a personal or financial interest in the outcome.

For more information on what constitutes judicial misconduct, see the Court on the Judiciary's Published Opinions where misconduct was found and discipline was imposed.

Answer: Judicial misconduct does not include errors in a judge's ruling. The safeguard against legal error is appellate review, not a complaint alleging judicial misconduct.

For example, without evidence of a wilful misconduct in office, wilful and persistent failure to perform duties, the commission of an offense involving moral turpitude, or other persistent misconduct in violation of the Delaware Judges' Code of Judicial Conduct, judicial misconduct does not include:

Improperly admitting or excluding evidence;
Imposing a sentence that is too harsh;
Imposing a sentence that is too lenient;
Setting bail too high;
Setting bail too low;
Awarding too much child support;
Awarding too little child support;
Awarding custody of a child to the wrong party;
Giving weight or credibility to certain evidence, such as a particular witness' testimony, while not giving as much weight or not believing other evidence.

Answer: A written complaint must be filed with the:

Court on the Judiciary
P.O. Box 369
Georgetown, DE 19947

Answer: No, but all complaints must be in writing and must be executed by oath or affirmation before a notary public or other authorized person. Use of the complaint form is strongly encouraged.

Answer: No. A complaint must be an original document that is signed before a notary public by the person filing the complaint.

Answer: Yes. The complaint and all other materials and references to a proceeding in the Court on the Judiciary are confidential and all persons, including the person filing the complaint, are required to honor the confidentiality. Only a final order of suspension, removal, or retirement is made public. Violation of the confidentiality requirement may result in sanctions, including the dismissal of the complaint if the violation is committed by the complainant.

Answer: No. A complaint must include the name and address of the person filing the complaint.

Answer: Yes. If your complaint is investigated, the judge is given notice of the complaint and an opportunity to respond. If a complaint is dismissed, the judge will get a copy of the complaint with the dismissal Order.

Answer: No. A judge is not disqualified from sitting in a matter solely because a party has filed a complaint against the judge with the Court on the Judiciary.

Answer: Not all complaints are investigated. A complaint falling outside of the Court on the Judiciary's limited authority will be dismissed without an investigation.

Answer: From start to finish, the resolution of a complaint can vary from a few weeks to several months or longer in cases involving formal action. You will receive written notice of the final disposition of the complaint.

Answer: You can check the status of the complaint with the Clerk of the Court on the Judiciary.

Answer: No. The Court on the Judiciary cannot intervene in your case, require the judge to step down from your case, or require the judge to reconsider or change a ruling. If you disagree with the judge's decision in your case, you should consult your lawyer or consult with one if you do not have one. The judicial discipline process does not replace the standard trial and appellate processes.

Answer: No. Most appeals have strict time limits. You must proceed with whatever remedy is available to you to correct any errors you believe were committed in your case. Your complaint with the Court on the Judiciary is separate and independent from your case and will have no effect on your appeal. If you need advice or assistance on what to do in your case you should consult with an attorney.

Answer: If the complaint falls within the Court on the Judiciary's authority, the complaint will be referred to a Panel of the Preliminary Investigatory Committee for an investigation. After the investigation, the Panel will file a report and recommendation with the Court. Based on the Panel's report, the Court will either dismiss the complaint or will appoint a Board of Examining Officers to conduct an evidentiary hearing. Any active or retired State judge can be appointed to sit on a Board of Examining Officers. After the evidentiary hearing, the Board will submit findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a recommendation to the Court on the Judiciary for a final decision on the charges of judicial misconduct.

If the complaint falls outside of the Court on the Judiciary's authority, the complaint will be dismissed.

Answer: No, not unless you are contacted. If your complaint is investigated, you may be contacted for further information. If there is an evidentiary hearing, you may be called as a witness.

Answer: The Court on the Judiciary can impose a private admonishment, public censure, order of suspension, removal from office, or involuntary retirement.

Answer: No. The Court on the Judiciary was created to regulate the conduct of State judicial officers in Delaware. The Court derives its authority from Article IV, Section 37 of the Delaware Constitution. Under that Section, decisions of the Court on the Judiciary are final.

The reason for that is signaled by the composition of the Court on the Judiciary. Consistent with the seriousness of its role, the Court on the Judiciary is comprised of the entirety of our Supreme Court and the presiding officers of the Court of Chancery, Superior Court, Family Court, and Court of Common Pleas. As a result, a decision of the Court on the Judiciary reflects the reasoned consideration of a diverse group of the State's most important judicial officers. Indeed, because the Court on the Judiciary includes the entire Supreme Court, there is no body from which to take an appeal, as every Court on the Judiciary case decided by the full Court includes the entire Supreme Court.