The Commission on Judicial Conduct

 

All fifty states and the District of Columbia have judicial conduct agencies to receive and investigate allegations of judicial misconduct. These agencies only act on complaints involving judicial misconduct and disability. They do not serve as appellate courts reviewing judges' rulings.

Commissions work to protect the integrity of the judicial process and promote public confidence in the courts. They also serve to improve and strengthen the judiciary by creating in judges a greater awareness of proper judicial behavior.

 

Washington's judicial conduct commission was Constitutionally created when voters passed the amendment to Article IV, Section 31 of the Washington State Constitution in November 1980. The enabling legislation was effective May 18, 1981 and is now codified as RCW 2.64.

 

There have been three amendments to Article IV, Section 31:

 

December 4, 1986, voters' passage of SJR 136 became effective, changing the name from Judicial Qualifications Commission to Commission on Judicial Conduct. Two additional citizen members increased the Commission from seven to nine. This amendment also provided for public fact-finding hearings after the Commission files charges against a judge.

 

December 6, 1989, voters' approval of ESSJR 8202 became effective, adding two more citizen members to the Commission. The Commission's authority was expanded, allowing it to impose all discipline except suspension or removal (for misconduct) and retirement (for disability). The Commission can recommend suspension, removal or retirement of a judge to the Supreme Court.

 

January 1, 2006, was the effective date of SJR 8207, permitting municipal court judges to be selected as members of the Commission. Previously only district court judges could be selected from courts of limited jurisdiction to serve on the Commission. This amendment did not change the total number of judge representatives on the Commission.

 

The Commission has adopted rules to insure due process and confidentiality of proceedings. The Commission's rules, first adopted in October 1981, have been revised over the years and now appear as Commission on Judicial Conduct Rules of Procedure (CJCRP) in the Washington Rules of Court.

 

The Commission on Judicial Conduct appreciates your concern in helping Washington maintain its quality judiciary.

It’s an honor to be a member of the Court of Appeals. As a trial and appellate attorney in Eastern Washington for 31 years, I’ve handled many appeals. If I have any talent as a lawyer, it’s in legal research and writing, essential for an appellate judge. I’m patient and understand a judge does not make law. I believe in the Golden Rule, and integrity and justice for all. I pray that I will do an excellent job for the citizens of Washington and I respectfully ask for your vote.

 

What are the major issues facing the appeals court today?

 

1.  The Court of Appeals has three divisions. Division Two, headquartered in Tacoma, has a significant backlog of cases. I serve in Division Three.

 

2.  Judges fail to appear in public settings and explain how the Court of Appeals works.

 

3.  In some, but not a majority of the cases, the appeals court takes too long to issue a decision. Some decisions are not written in language understandable to the layperson, let alone lawyers.

 

How could the court be made more efficient?

 

1.  Judges from other Divisions should assist Division Two in reducing its backlog of cases. I serve in Division Three. I have already volunteered and assisted Division Two and will continue to volunteer and assist.

 

2.  I plan to speak at public settings, including service clubs, to discuss how the Court of Appeals performs its work.

 

3.  I will write opinions in language understandable to lay readers. The appellate courts should hire an excellent writer, without any legal background, to review and edit decisions for their readability, before the decisions are published.

 

 

About the Court of Appeals

The need for an intermediate appellate court to relieve the heavy workload of the Washington Supreme Court was felt as far back as 1929 when the state's Judicial Council suggested the establishment of such a court as a possible option for judicial restructuring. However, nothing happened until the mid-1960s, when work began on a Court of Appeals.

 

A Constitutional Amendment was passed on November 5, 1968 authorizing the legislature to create a Court of Appeals, and to define its composition and jurisdiction. The legislature passed the enabling act, and a Court of Appeals, with three divisions with a total of 12 judges was established on May 12. 1969. The initial appointments were made by Governor Dan Evans with the judges all facing election at the general election of 1970 with each elected judge initially serving terms of two, four and six years determined by lot. (Information from Wikipedia)

 

 

Division III

Division III sits in Spokane and includes the three-fifths of the state's land area that lies east of the Cascade Range. In addition to the state's second largest city, Spokane; it embraces the regional cities of Yakima and the Tri-Cities of Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland. It hears appeals from Adams, Asotin, Benton, Chelan, Columbia, Douglas, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lincoln, Okanigan, Pend Orelle, Spokane, Stevens, Walla Walla, Whitman and Yakima counties. This division has five judges:

George B. Fearing, Chief Judge

Robert Lawrence-Berrey, Acting Chief Judge

Kevin M. Korsmo, Judge

Rebecca L. Pennell, Judge

Laurel H. Siddoway, Judge

 

 

 

For more information on the Appeals Court and how it functions, please see the following sites:

 

Washington State Appeals Court Official Site

 

Wikipedia page for Washington State Court of Appeals

 

For a Directory of the Appeals Court:

 

Directory

 

To access the current Court Docket:

 

Docket

 

 

Paid for by Committee to Re-elect Judge Fearing

 

P.O. Box 1701, Richland, WA 99352 • GeorgeFearing@outlook.com • 509-375-5414