California Stats Show Elected Judges Disciplined More Often than Appointed Judges

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Initially elected judges are more likely to be disciplined in California than initially appointed judges, according to a report by the state Commission on Judicial Performance.

According to the report (PDF), the commission imposed discipline on trial court judges in 790 cases from 1990 to 2009.

Lawyers can become superior court judges in one of two ways in California. When a vacancy occurs at the end of a six-year term, the seat is filled in an election. When a vacancy occurs in the middle of a term, the governor may appoint a replacement who later stands for re-election.

Initially appointed judges were disciplined at the rate of 2.39 cases per 100 judges, while the rate was four cases per 100 judges for initially elected judges.

Other findings in the report:

• Judges previously sanctioned by the commission made up a large share of disciplined judges. From 2000 to 2009, about 55 percent of all discipline was imposed on previously disciplined judges.

• Male judges were about twice as likely to be disciplined as female judges.

• Judges on small courts were more frequently sanctioned than judges on larger courts.

The Bay Citizen interviewed Loyola law professor Laurie Levenson on the findings. “When we see repeat offenders, the bells should go off, because it means that it is not just a problem with the judges, it is a problem with the oversight itself,” she said.

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