Misbehaving judges would face more types of sanctions following public proceedings if voters approve the last constitutional amendment on the November ballot.
Currently, the Texas Constitution says that the State Commission on Judicial Conduct (SCJC), after holding a formal proceeding against a judge, can only issue its harshest sanctions: a public censure; or a recommendation for the judge’s retirement or removal. But the commission can issue those sanctions or lesser punishments after private, informal proceedings.
Proposition 9 asks voters to expand the commission’s options following formal proceedings to its full range of sanctions: a public admonition, warning or reprimand; a requirement for training or education; a public censure; and a recommendation for a judge’s removal or retirement.
The constitutional amendment arises from Senate Joint Resolution 42, which the 83rd Legislature approved in 2013’s regular session. The Sunset Advisory Commission, which reviews state agencies every 12 years and recommends improvements, suggested SJR 42 after reviewing the SCJC. The measure is meant to encourage the SCJC to discipline more judges publicly instead of privately.
The Legislature already put other Sunset Commission recommendations in place by passing Senate Bill 209. It requires the SCJC to: open all its documents and hearings to future Sunset review; hold biennial hearings to take public comment; review its governing rules and suggest changes for consistency with other law; explain to complainants reasons why it dismisses their complaints; allow judges to seek review of any type of sanction; and more.
SCJC Executive Director Seana Willing and Chairman Tom Cunningham each didn’t immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
-- Angela Morris