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2014 California Rules of Court

Rule 10.703. Subordinate judicial officers: complaints and notice requirements

(a) Intent

The procedures in this rule for processing complaints against subordinate judicial officers do not:

(1)Create a contract of employment;

(2)Change the existing employee-employer relationship between the subordinate judicial officer and the court; or

(3)Change the status of a subordinate judicial officer from an employee terminable at will to an employee terminable only for cause.

(Subd (a) amended effective January 1, 2007.)

(b) Definitions

Unless the context requires otherwise, the following definitions apply to this rule:

(1)"Subordinate judicial officer" means an attorney employed by a court to serve as a commissioner or referee, whether the attorney is acting as a commissioner, referee, or temporary judge. The term does not include any other attorney acting as a temporary judge.

(2)"Presiding judge" includes the person or group the presiding judge designates to perform any duty required by this rule to be performed by a presiding judge.

(3)"Commission" means the Commission on Judicial Performance. The commission exercises discretionary jurisdiction over the discipline of subordinate judicial officers under article VI, section 18.1 of the California Constitution.

(c) Application

(1)A court that employs a subordinate judicial officer must use the procedures in this rule for processing complaints against the subordinate judicial officer if the complaint alleges conduct that if alleged against a judge would be within the jurisdiction of the commission under article VI, section 18 of the California Constitution.

(2)If a complaint against a subordinate judicial officer does not allege conduct that would be within the jurisdiction of the commission, the court must process the complaint following local procedures adopted under rule 10.603(c)(4)(C). The local process may include any procedures from this rule for the court's adjudication of the complaint other than the provisions for referring the matter to the commission under (g) or giving notice of commission review under (l)(2)(B).

(3)A court may adopt additional policies and procedures for the adjudication of complaints against subordinate judicial officers not inconsistent with this rule.

(Subd (c) amended effective January 1, 2007; previously amended effective July 1, 2002.)

(d) Promptness required

The presiding judge must ensure that the court processes each complaint promptly. To the extent reasonably possible, the court must complete action on each complaint within 90 days after the complaint is submitted.

(Subd (d) amended effective January 1, 2007.)

(e) Confidentiality

(1)All proceedings by a presiding judge under this rule must be conducted in a manner that is as confidential as is reasonably possible consistent with the need to conduct a thorough and complete investigation and the need for proper administration of the court.

(2)This rule does not prohibit access by the commission to any information relevant to the investigation of a complaint against a subordinate judicial officer.

(Subd (e) amended effective January 1, 2007.)

(f) Written complaints to presiding judge

(1)A complaint about the conduct of a subordinate judicial officer must be in writing and be submitted to the presiding judge.

(2)Persons who are unable to file a written complaint because of a disability may present an oral complaint, which the presiding judge must commit to writing.

(3)The presiding judge must give written notice of receipt of the complaint to the complainant.

(Subd (f) amended effective January 1, 2007.)

(g) Initial review of the complaint

(1)The presiding judge must review each complaint and determine if the complaint:

(A)May be closed after initial review;

(B)Needs preliminary investigation; or

(C)Requires formal investigation.

(2)A presiding judge may request that the commission investigate and adjudicate the complaint if a local conflict of interest or disqualification prevents the court from acting on the complaint.

(3)In exceptional circumstances a presiding judge may request the commission to investigate a complaint on behalf of the court and provide the results of the investigation to the court for action.

(4)The court must maintain a file on every complaint received, containing the following:

(A)The complaint;

(B)The response of the subordinate judicial officer, if any;

(C)All evidence and reports produced by the investigation of the complaint, if any; and

(D)The final action taken on the complaint.

(Subd (g) amended effective January 1, 2007.)

(h) Closing a complaint after initial review

(1)After a preliminary review the presiding judge may close without further action any complaint that:

(A)Relates to the permissible exercise of judicial or administrative discretion by the subordinate judicial officer; or

(B)Does not allege conduct that if alleged against a judge would be within the jurisdiction of the commission under article VI, section 18 of the California Constitution.

(2)The presiding judge must notify the complainant in writing of the decision to close the investigation on the complaint. The notice must include the information required under (l).

(3)The presiding judge must advise the subordinate judicial officer in writing of the disposition.

(Subd (h) amended effective January 1, 2007.)

(i) Complaints requiring preliminary investigation

(1)If after an initial review of the complaint the presiding judge finds a basis for further inquiry, the presiding judge must conduct a preliminary investigation appropriate to the nature of the complaint.

(2)The investigation may include interviews of witnesses and a review of court records.

(3)The presiding judge may give the subordinate judicial officer a copy of the complaint or a summary of its allegations and allow him or her an opportunity to respond. The presiding judge must give the subordinate judicial officer a copy of the complaint or a summary of its allegations and allow the subordinate judicial officer an opportunity to respond before the presiding judge takes appropriate informal action as described in (i)(4)(B).

(4)After completing the preliminary investigation, the presiding judge must:

(A)Terminate the investigation and close action on the complaint if the presiding judge finds the complaint lacks merit; or

(B)Terminate the investigation and close action on the complaint by taking appropriate informal action, which may include a reprimand or warning to the subordinate judicial officer, if the presiding judge finds a basis for taking informal action; or

(C)Proceed with a formal investigation under (j) if the presiding judge finds a basis for proceeding further.

(5)If the presiding judge terminates the investigation and closes action on the complaint, the presiding judge must:

(A)Notify the complainant in writing of the decision to close the investigation on the complaint. The notice must include the information required under (l); and

(B)Advise the subordinate judicial officer in writing of the disposition.

(Subd (i) amended effective January 1, 2007; previously amended effective January 1, 2006.)

(j) Complaints requiring formal investigation

(1)If after a preliminary investigation the presiding judge finds a basis for proceeding with the investigation, the presiding judge must conduct a formal investigation appropriate to the nature of the complaint.

(A)The investigation may include interviews of witnesses and a review of court records.

(B)As soon as practicable, the presiding judge must give the subordinate judicial officer a copy of the complaint or a summary of its allegations and allow the subordinate judicial officer an opportunity to respond.

(2)Within 10 days after the completion of the investigation or as soon thereafter as is reasonably possible, the presiding judge must give the subordinate judicial officer the following in writing:

(A)Notice of the intended final action on the complaint; and

(B)The facts and other information forming the basis for the proposed action and the source of the facts and information, sufficient to allow a meaningful response to the allegations.

(3)Final action on the complaint may include:

(A)A finding that no further action need be taken on the complaint;

(B)An oral or written warning to the subordinate judicial officer;

(C)A private written reprimand to the subordinate judicial officer;

(D)A public written reprimand to the subordinate judicial officer;

(E)Suspension of the subordinate judicial officer;

(F)Termination of the subordinate judicial officer; and

(G)Any other action the court may deem appropriate.

(4)The notice of the intended final action on the complaint in (j)(2)(A) must include the following advice:

(A)The subordinate judicial officer may request an opportunity to respond within 10 days after service of the notice; and

(B)If the subordinate judicial officer does not request an opportunity to respond within 10 days after service of the notice, the proposed action will become final.

(5)If the subordinate judicial officer requests an opportunity to respond, the presiding judge should allow the subordinate judicial officer an opportunity to respond to the notice of the intended final action, either orally or in writing as specified by the presiding judge, in accordance with local rules.

(6)Within 10 days after the subordinate judicial officer has responded, the presiding judge must give the subordinate judicial officer and the complainant written notice of the final action taken on the complaint. The notice to the complainant must include the information required under (l).

(7)If the subordinate judicial officer does not request or has not been given an opportunity to respond, the presiding judge must promptly give written notice of the final action to the complainant. The notice must include the information required under (l).

(Subd (j) amended effective January 1, 2007.)

(k) Notice to the Commission on Judicial Performance

(1)If a court disciplines a subordinate judicial officer by written reprimand under (i)(4)(B) or (j)(3)(C) or (D), suspension, or removal for conduct that, if alleged against a judge, would be within the jurisdiction of the commission under article VI, section 18 of the California Constitution, the presiding judge must promptly forward to the commission a copy of the portions of the court file that reasonably reflect the basis of the action taken by the court, including the complaint or allegations of misconduct and the subordinate judicial officer's response. This provision is applicable even when the disciplinary action does not result from a written complaint.

(2)If a subordinate judicial officer resigns (A) while a preliminary or formal investigation under (i) or (j) is pending concerning conduct that, if alleged against a judge, would be within the jurisdiction of the commission under article VI, section 18 of the California Constitution, or (B) under circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the resignation was due, at least in part, to a complaint or allegation of misconduct that, if alleged against a judge, would be within the jurisdiction of the commission under article VI, section 18 of the California Constitution, the presiding judge must, within 15 days of the resignation or as soon thereafter as is reasonably possible, forward to the commission the entire court file on any pending complaint about or allegation of misconduct committed by the subordinate judicial officer.

(3)On request by the commission, the presiding judge must forward to the commission any requested information regarding a complaint about or allegation of misconduct committed by a subordinate judicial officer.

(Subd (k) amended effective July 1, 2010; previously amended effective January 1, 2007.)

(l) Notice of final court action

(1)When the court has completed its action on a complaint, the presiding judge must promptly notify the complainant and the subordinate judicial officer of the final court action.

(2)The notice to the complainant of the final court action must:

(A)Provide a general description of the action taken by the court consistent with any law limiting the disclosure of confidential employee information; and

(B)Include the following statement:

If you are dissatisfied with the court's action on your complaint, you have the right to request the Commission on Judicial Performance to review this matter under its discretionary jurisdiction to oversee the discipline of subordinate judicial officers. No further action will be taken on your complaint unless the commission receives your written request within 30 days after the date this notice was mailed. The commission's address is:

Commission on Judicial Performance

455 Golden Gate Avenue, Suite 14400

San Francisco, California 94102-3660

(Subd (l) amended effective January 1, 2007; previously amended effective April 29, 1999.)

Rule 10.703 amended effective July 1, 2010; adopted as rule 6.655 effective November 20, 1998; previously amended effective April 29, 1999, July 1, 2002, and January 1, 2006; previously amended and renumbered effective January 1, 2007.

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