1- Does my Cover Sheet have to be notarized?
No. However, you must sign and date the Cover Sheet. By so doing, you are swearing or affirming under the pains and penalties of perjury that the information contained in your Cover Sheet and any supporting materials is true to the best of your knowledge.
2- Do I need to provide sound recordings or transcripts of hearings?
No. When the Committee first reviews your report and any supporting materials you might have filed, the Committee's task at that moment is to determine: a- Whether your report is indeed against a "judge" within the meaning of Supreme Court Rule 40(2); and, b- Whether your report meets the requirements for docketing the report as a "complaint". In other words, whether the report contains a statement of misconduct which, if true and not otherwise explained, would establish a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Should the Committee determine the need to review a transcript or sound recording of a hearing these can be obtained from the court directly by the Committee.
3- Is there a time limit for filing a report of alleged misconduct?
Yes. Supreme Court Rule 40(4)(b)(2) provides that no formal disciplinary proceedings shall be commenced unless a report is filed with the Committee within two (2) years after the commission of the alleged misconduct. However this Rule also provides that when the acts or omissions which form the basis of the report could not reasonably have been discovered at the time of the acts or omissions, the report must be filed within two (2) years of the time that the reporter discovers, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have discovered, the acts or omissions complained of.
4- May I file a report against a Guardian ad Litem?
No. Under Supreme Court Rule 40 (2) the term "judge" is defined to include:
- all full-time or part-time judges of any state court or division;
- all full-time or part-time marital masters;
- referees or other masters; and,
- when performing an adjudicatory function, clerks of court or deputy clerks, including registers of probate or deputy registers, and any persons performing the duties of a clerk or register on an interim basis.
Not everyone who is a "judge" as defined herein is bound by every Canon of the Code of Judicial Conduct -- the Code of Judicial Conduct applies to a judge to the extent provided in Supreme Court Rule 38.
5- May I file a report against an attorney?
No. At least not under circumstances where that attorney was acting in the role of an attorney as opposed to that of a special master or referee engaged to perform a judicial or quasi-judicial function. Please refer to answer number "4" above.
6- I heard that lawyers, policemen and guardians ad litem are all "officers of the court". What does this mean?
Is an "officer of the court" the same as a "judicial officer"? The term "officer of the court" does indeed include attorneys, guardians ad litem and policemen. These professionals have each taken an oath to uphold the state and federal constitutions and all have a legal obligation to serve the judicial system honorably in order to achieve a just result out of the application of the law, the simultaneous pursuit of the legitimate interests of parties before the court and for the general good of society. Lawyers, guardians ad Litem and policemen each do this in their own specified way. Only a judge, referee or master, however, performs the role of a "judicial officer" by deciding facts and determining and applying the law in the context of resolving disputes which come before the court.
7- What is an ex parte communication?
An ex parte communication is a communication to or by a judge from any person about a pending or impending matter before the court that occurs in the absence of all parties to the case and without notice or an opportunity for all parties to participate in the communication.
8- I don't have money for an appeal. If the Judicial Conduct Committee finds that the judge was wrong, will the JCC reverse the judge's ruling?
No. The Judicial Conduct Committee is charged with the investigation, determination and sanctioning of judicial misconduct. By bringing a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct to the attention of the Committee, you help to trigger this process but the Judicial Conduct Committee has no power to interfere or intervene in your case, require a judge to step down from a particular case or require a judge to reconsider or change a prior ruling.
9 - May I appear before the Committee so I can explain what happened in my case?
You may, but only under circumstance where you are invited to do so or issued a subpoena by legal counsel to provide testimony. Should a report be docketed by the Committee as a complaint, and should that complaint result in a statement of formal charges being served by the Committee upon the judge triggering a public hearing, this hearing shall be open to the public pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 40(11)(a). The Committee bears the burden of proof at any such hearing to prove misconduct by clear and convincing evidence. As in any trial, you may provide testimony but only if invited to do so by hearing counsel.
10- How long does it take for the JCC to reach a decision?
All reports and complaints are different and under Supreme Court Rule 40 any matter before the Committee may be disposed of at any stage of the investigatory or disciplinary process. Therefore, there is no way to answer this question with any precision.
11- How will I be notified of the JCC's decision?
Should the Committee determine that your report does not satisfy the criteria as set forth under Supreme Court Rule 40(5)(c) for docketing as a complaint, you will be notified in writing by the Committee's Executive Secretary as to the dismissal of the report. Should the report be docketed as a complaint by the Committee but thereafter be dismissed, you shall similarly be informed in writing by the Committee's Executive Secretary. Should a statement of formal charges be served on the judge and a public hearing scheduled, you shall be provided notice of the time and place of that hearing by the Executive Secretary.
12- What happens if my report concerns a judge who sits on the Committee?
In the event that your report concerns a judge or judicial officer who sits on the Judicial Conduct Committee, the report shall be referred by the Executive Secretary to the Alternate Panel of the Judicial Conduct Committee. The members of Committee proper and the members of the Alternate Panel shall have no contact with each other regarding this report throughout the entire process.
13- Will the Judicial Conduct Committee order the judge to step down from my case?
No. Please refer to answer "8" above.
14- Can a judge actually send me to jail for not paying a bill?
Under certain circumstances, yes. It is certainly within the authority of a judge to do so under the proper circumstances pursuant to the Court's finding a party in contempt. Contempt of court is classified as civil or criminal depending on the purpose for which the power is exercised by the judge. Sometimes the same acts or omissions may constitute, or at least embrace, aspects of both criminal and civil contempt.
15- For how long must I keep my report confidential?
The rules governing the confidentiality of the proceedings of the Judicial Conduct Committee are found within Supreme Court Rule 40(3) and all reporters are advised to read them carefully. The New Hampshire Supreme Court has held that nothing in the Rule prevents a reporter from disclosing publicly the conduct of the judge which he or she believes to have violated the Code of Judicial Conduct or is otherwise inappropriate. The Rule, however, does prohibit a reporter from disclosing the fact that a report against a judge has been filed with the Committee until a statement of formal charges has been prepared and served upon the judge; or until a report that had been docketed as complaint is disposed of by informal resolution or adjustment or is dismissed; or until or a report that has not been docketed as a complaint is disposed of by the Committee.
16- If I file a report of alleged misconduct against a judge, must the judge then step down from my case?
No. Whether a judge steps down from a case is a judgment based on law and fact. Most typically a judge's decision to recuse himself or herself from a case and the impact of that decision on the underlying action involves a ruling of the court that is properly addressed by way of the appellate process.