The Disciplinary Process
Any Nebraska citizen may bring a complaint to the Nebraska Commission on Judicial Qualifications concerning the conduct or qualifications of any Nebraska state judge.
Upon the receipt of a complaint against any Nebraska state judge, the Commission may conduct a confidential inquiry or investigation as it determines is necessary.
The Commission reviews each complaint to determine whether any further inquiry is required or whether it should be dismissed.
If the Commission finds there is insufficient cause to proceed further, the matter is dismissed and the complainant is notified of the dismissal. If the judge was notified of the existence of the complaint or if it was made public (by actions of the complainant or others), the judge also is notified of the dismissal.
If the Commission determines there is sufficient basis (“probable cause”) for disciplinary action, the Commission may either publicly reprimand the judge following a closed hearing; or may conduct a public hearing and make a specific discipline recommendation to the Nebraska Supreme Court, which reviews and makes an independent determination.
A judge may be disciplined for (1) willful misconduct in office, (2) willful disregard of or failure to perform his or her duties, (3) habitual intemperance, (4) conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, (5) disbarment as a member of the Nebraska legal profession, or (6) conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute.
A judge subject to discipline for the above reasons will receive a reprimand, discipline, censure, suspension without pay for up to six months, or will be removed from office. All such discipline is public.
A judge with a permanent physical or mental disability which seriously interferes with the performance of duties may be subject to the Commission’s review and recommendation of disability retirement.
The Nebraska Commission on Judicial Qualifications consists of the Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court, who also serves as its Chairperson; three judges appointed by the Chief Justice; three lawyers appointed by the Nebraska State Bar Association; and three citizens appointed by the Governor.
What the Commission Can and Cannot Do
The Commission’s power to investigate includes the authority to require a judge to undergo physical or mental medical examination, to subpoena witnesses and documents, to conduct inquiries and interviews, to hold hearings. Once its review is complete, the Commission’s discipline authority is limited to public reprimand. The Commission does not have the authority to issue any other type of discipline, rather, it must recommend other sanctions to the Supreme Court, which can agree with the Commission’s recommendation or impose a different discipline.
The Commission cannot take the place of an appeals process or change a judge’s decisions or the outcome of a lawsuit. The Commission cannot reassign a case to another judge or give legal advice about whether a judge has made a correct ruling.
The Commission does not represent or provide advice to the person filing the complaint, but makes its determination based upon an independent review.
The Commission’s authority is limited to sitting judges of the Nebraska State courts. It has no authority over federal judges, referees, lawyers or other court employees.
All of the Commission’s filings, interviews, investigations and proceedings which take place prior to a formal open hearing remain confidential by law. Except in limited circumstances, the Commission cannot make any of these public.
How to File a Complaint
Complaints must be in writing. No specific form is required but the complaint must include sufficient relevant information to allow the Commission to communicate with the person complaining and conduct a meaningful review. If you wish, you may use the Court’s optional suggested complaint form. The complaint may be filed by sending it to the Commission secretary or to any of the Commissioners.
Annual Reports of the Annual Reports of the Judicial Qualifications Commission
The Judicial Qualifications Commission releases an Annual Report every calendar year outlining the complaint process generally followed by the Commission. The report contains statistics regarding complaints and the Commission’s membership.
Secretary, Nebraska Commission on Judicial Qualifications
P.O. Box 98910
Lincoln, NE 68509-8910