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Commission on Judicial Conduct

The Commission on Judicial Conduct (“Commission”) was established on June 1, 1979 pursuant to Article VI, Section 5 of the Hawaiʻi Constitution, by the Supreme Court of Hawaiʻi to investigate allegations of judicial misconduct and disability. The Commission has jurisdiction over all sitting justices and judges (collectively referred to as “judge(s)”), full-time or part-time, of the State of Hawai’i.

Contact Information:
Commission on Judicial Conduct
417 S. King Street, Room 206A, Honolulu, HI 96813-2943
Telephone: 808-539-4790
Fax: 808-539-4756
Email: judconduct.c.comm@courts.hawaii.gov


 

COMMISION FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)

WHAT IS THE COMMISSION?

  • Who are the Commissioners?

The Commission consists of four members from the general public and three attorneys, one of whom serves as Chair. The Commission members are appointed by the Supreme Court for staggered three-year terms.

  • What does the Commission do?
  1. Receive information, allegations, and complaints about Hawaiʻi judges;
  2. Make preliminary evaluations;
  3. Screen complaints;
  4. Conduct investigations;
  5. Conduct hearings

Recommend dispositions to the Hawai`i Supreme Court concerning allegations of judicial misconduct or physical or mental disability of judges; and

  • Issue advisory opinions to aid judges in the interpretation of the Hawaiʻi Revised Code of Judicial Conduct. These opinions are admissible in disciplinary action against the judge involved.

The Commission meets every month and carefully reviews the complaints. The Commission investigates allegations of judicial misconduct and disability of Hawaiʻi judges. The Commission’s jurisdiction is limited to whether there is a violation of the  Code.

  • What is judicial misconduct and disability?

“Judicial misconduct” is defined as any violation of the Code. “Disability” is the physical or mental inability to perform judicial duties and functions.

HOW DO I FILE A COMPLAINT?

Before submitting your complaint, please read the Hawaiʻi Revised Code of Judicial Conduct

  • How do I submit a complaint?

You may file a complaint by email or a legible handwritten or typed letter. Please make a copy of your written complaint as the Commission will not provide a copy for you.

  • Should I submit relevant materials?

You may submit relevant materials such as transcripts to support your claim of judicial misconduct or disability. If you are submitting any relevant materials, please indicate the reference point, such as page number(s).

  • What happens to my relevant materials?

When submitting any relevant materials, please submit only copies as these materials become the property of the Commission and will not be returned to you nor will the Commission make copies for you.

  • Where should I submit my complaint?

Your submission may be mailed to:

Commission on Judicial Conduct
417 S. King Street, Room 206A
Honolulu, HI 96813-2943

Or by email: judconduct.c.comm@courts.hawaii.gov

WHAT INFORMATION SHALL BE INCLUDED IN MY COMPLAINT?

  1. Your full name.
  2. Your mailing address.
  3. Your email address if you wish to receive a response by email.
  4. Your case number(s).
  5. The title of your case(s).
  6. The hearing date(s).
  7. The judge’s name(s).
  8. A clear and brief statement of your allegation(s). For example, if you have multiple cases and judges:
    • In (case #1), on (hearing date), (judge #1), (state your allegation).
    • In (case #2), on (hearing date), (judge #1), (state your allegation). On (hearing date), (judge #2), (state your allegation).

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I SUBMIT MY COMPLAINT?

  • What happens after the Commission receives my complaint?

Complaints which fall within the scope or jurisdiction of the Commission receive thorough consideration. The Commission’s jurisdiction is limited to whether there is a violation of the Code.

  • What happens if my complaint is not within the Commission’s jurisdiction?

Complaints not within the Commission’s jurisdiction are dismissed or otherwise disposed.

Complaints submitted with vague, general, unclear allegations, or otherwise without sufficient case information or specificity, or anonymously, for the Commission to proceed are usually dismissed.

The Commission is not a trial court nor an appellate court and does not have the authority to address issues for those courts.

  • What happens if my complaint merits further investigation?

An investigation will follow. The Commission may request further information from the complainant or the judge to clarify the allegation(s).

The Commission may make a disciplinary recommendation to the Supreme Court. If it is determined that further proceedings are necessary, the Commission may request that the Supreme Court appoint a special counsel to institute formal hearings.

  • Will my complaint be made public?

No. Under the Rules of the Supreme Court, the Commission’s investigation of a complaint is confidential. However, the Commission may share a complaint with the judge as part of its investigation.

WHAT IS NOT WITHIN THE COMMISSION’S JURISDICTION?

  • Can the Commission reassign my case to another judge or change a judge’s decision?

No. If you wish to change your assigned judge or to seek a change in a court’s order or decision, you must pursue it through the courts and legal channels. The Commission does not provide legal advice or assist you with any legal or judicial process, and it is not a substitution for pursuing it through the courts and legal channels.

  • Can the commission help me with an appeal or give me legal advice?

No. The Commission does not provide legal advice and does not assist you with any legal or judicial process. The advice and guidance of legal counsel—your attorney—is highly recommended if you decide to contest the ruling through the courts and legal channels.

Filing a complaint with the Commission is not a substitution for an appeal.

  • Will the Commission provide a preliminary decision about my complaint?

No. The decision on whether you should file a complaint is entirely your decision. The Commission is not authorized to advise you on what your next steps should be or how you should proceed with your legal case.

  • Can I file a complaint against a federal judge or magistrate?

No. Federal judicial officers are not with the Hawaiʻi State Judiciary, and they are not within the jurisdiction of the Commission.

  • Can I file a complaint against my attorney or other members of society?

No. The Commission does not have jurisdiction to consider complaints against attorneys or other members of society.

Complaints against attorneys are handled by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

  • What if my assigned judge retired?

The Commission has no jurisdiction to consider a complaint against any judge if the submission is more than 90 days after the judge leaves office.

  • Does the commission discipline a judge who is found to have committed judicial misconduct or to be disabled?

No. The Commission, on determining that evidence exists to support allegations of misconduct or disability, forwards its recommendation to the Supreme Court.  The Commission may recommend private or public admonishment, reprimand or censure, administrative counseling, suspension, retirement, or removal of a judge.  The Supreme Court makes its own final determination on the complaint, based on information provided by the Commission and the complainant.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO RESOLVE A COMPLAINT?

If the complaint is not substantiated and is dismissed, based on the information provided, it may be resolved in a few weeks.* For complaints that are determined to be of sufficient cause, final disposition may take several months, depending on the timing of the filing of the complaint and the complexity of the specific complaint.

*Please keep in mind if you submit a continuation of additional letters, emails or supporting materials regarding your initial complaint, additional time will be required.

WILL THE COMMISSION TELL ME WHAT ITS DECISION IS IN MY CASE?

If your complaint is found to be without merit, or to fall outside its jurisdiction, you will be informed that it has been dismissed.  If, after careful investigation, the Commission determines that a recommendation of discipline is applied or if other cautionary steps are taken, you will be informed that appropriate action has been taken.


Commission Members:

Members Term
James A Kawachika, Chair Appointed 07/01/21 – 06/30/24
Dr. Doris M. Ching, Vice-Chair Reappointed 09/01/21 – 08/31/24
Corbett Kalama Appointed 06/01/23 – 05/31/26
Diane M. Kimura Appointed 06/10/23 – 06/09/26
Dickson C.H. Lee Reappointed 06/02/21 – 06/01/24
Benjamin M. Matsubara Reappointed 06/02/21 – 06/01/24
Lynne Waters Reppointed 01/12/24 – 01/11/27

Formal Advisory Opinions


Commission on Judicial Conduct Annual Reports: