Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who are the Commission members and how do they get appointed?

The Commission consists of nine members: Three are state court judges who are elected by justices and judges of the state courts. Three are attorneys who have practiced law in Alaska for at least ten years and have been nominated by the Alaska Bar Association. Three are members of the public who are not judges, retired judges, or members of the state bar.

Both attorney and public members are appointed by the governor and are subject to confirmation by a majority of the members of legislature in joint session. Each member serves a four-year term.

2. Who does the Commission have authority over?

The Commission oversees the conduct of justices of the Alaska Supreme Court, judges of the state court of appeals, state superior court and state district court judges. The Commission does not have authority over masters, magistrates, attorneys, federal judicial officers, or other court personnel.

Complaints concerning federal judicial officers should be directed to the Assistant Circuit Executive in the jurisdiction of which the judge holds office. For Alaska, that is the office of the 9th circuit in San Francisco, California. Complaints regarding magistrates and masters should be directed to the presiding superior court judge for their respective judicial district. Complaints concerning attorneys should be directed to the Alaska Bar Association.

3. How do I file a complaint?

Complaints must be submitted in writing. A complaint form can be found on the Commissions website or one can be mailed to you by contacting the Commission office. However, it is not necessary to use a complaint form, as any written detailed letter will be considered.

Your complaint should include: the name of the judge, the case number (if applicable), when the conduct occurred, and as many facts surrounding the conduct as possible. It is also helpful to provide an address, phone number, and e-mail address where you can be reached. Complaints should be sent to:

Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct
510 L Street, Suite 585
Anchorage, AK 99501

4. How long do I have to file a complaint?

Pursuant to A.S. 22.30.011 (a)(3) the Commission is only able to review matters within six years of the alleged violation.

5. What happens after I file a complaint?

After an initial review, Commission staff may interview the person who filed the complaint. No complaint is decided solely on the claims made by the complaining person. After the preliminary inquiry, if the complaint falls outside of the Commission’s authority, such as a complaint about an attorney or the judge’s legal decision, the complaint is dismissed. If a complaint appears to be within the Commission’s authority, a case number is assigned to the complaint and an initial investigation is begun.

At any time during the investigation if the Commission determines that there is no reliable evidence supporting the complaint, it is dismissed.

6. What type of complaints can the Commission address?

Complaints within the Commission’s authority include any violations of the Alaska Code of Judicial Conduct which include, but are not limited to: improper courtroom decorum, improper or illegal influence, impropriety off the bench, other improper or illegal activities, and physical or mental disability.

The Commission is not able to address complaints concerning a judge’s legal decisions or rulings, nor do they have the power to evaluate judicial decisions for factual or legal errors. This is the role of the appellate courts.

7. How long does the investigation process take?

Each complaint is unique and the research time may vary depending on the information required for the investigation. Some factors that may prolong the research process include: gathering and reviewing court records, audio recordings and transcripts, and interviewing witnesses.

8. Will the judge know about my complaint?

Initially, all names and complaint information will be kept confidential. Upon formal investigation, the judge will be informed of the complaint and the charges under investigation. The judge is then given an opportunity to respond. At this time the complainant may be identified or the nature of the complaint could identify the complainant. However, the Commission also accepts anonymous complaints that are detailed enough to enable a meaningful investigation.

9. Will filing a complaint affect my court case or change the judge’s ruling?

No. The Commission does not have authority to change a court ruling, decision or order. The Commission is also unable to evaluate whether a judge has erred in a particular ruling; that is the function of the appellate courts.

If your complaint concerns the correctness of a judge’s ruling or decision, you should consult with an attorney about whether to file an appeal. Commission staff cannot give you any legal advice.

10. Can the Commission have a different judge assigned to my case?

The Commission has no authority to intervene in your court case. Nor do we have the ability to disqualify or make judges recuse themselves from a case.

11. What can the Commission do?

Ultimately, the commission may: sanction a judge privately but informally, exonerate the judge of wrongdoing, issue public formal charges, hold a public formal hearing on the charges, and recommend disciplinary action to the Alaska Supreme Court.

12. Can the Commission discipline or remove a judge?

The Commission has no power to formally sanction a judge. That power belongs to the state supreme court. The Commission can however, recommend that the Alaska Supreme Court discipline a judge. These sanctions can include: removal from office, suspension for a limited time, retirement, censure, or reprimand.

13. What is the difference between the Commission and the Alaska Judicial Council?

The Commission on Judicial Conduct handles complaints from the public about the ethical conduct of Alaska’s state court judges. It investigates allegations of judicial misconduct by judges, violations of the Alaska Code of Judicial Conduct. Serious proven misconduct results in a recommendation of discipline by the Alaska Supreme Court.

The Alaska Judicial Council is a separate state agency created by the Alaska Constitution. The Judicial Council screens and nominates applicants for judgeships to the governor, and evaluates judges standing for retention making its evaluations and recommendations public. The Council also conducts research to recommend improvements in the administration of justice in Alaska.

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