History and Authority of the Committee
The Committee was created by an order of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, effective July 5, 1978. Its mission is to receive and investigate complaints of misconduct against Maine judges, with the objective of enforcing the high standards of conduct set forth in the Maine Code of Judicial Conduct.
The Supreme Judicial Court promulgated the Code in 1974, and repealed and replaced it in 2015, to ensure the integrity of Maine judges who are expected to enforce the law fairly and impartially. The Code requires Judges to:
- Be competent and follow the law in making judicial decisions;
- Comply with and respect the law themselves;
- Avoid improper influence or the use of the judicial office
for private interests;
- Avoid conflicts of interest in financial, political,
and other matters;
- Disqualify themselves when their impartiality may reasonably
- Avoid improper private communications intended to influence
- Be courteous and maintain court order and decorum;
- Be prompt in properly performing their duties,
and require lawyers and other court officials to do
- Give people the right to be heard; and
- Abstain from commenting publicly on pending cases.
The Committee is responsible for receiving and investigating any complaints about the members of the Maine judiciary, including members of the Supreme Judicial Court, the Superior Court, the District Court; and the county Probate Courts, in addition to any members of those courts who are serving as active retired judges.
The Committee has the authority to review complaints and then dismiss or report complaints to the Supreme Judicial Court for further action. The Supreme Judicial Court makes the final decision about the disposition of any complaints reported and the Court has the authority to issue disciplinary sanctions. In the past, the court has issued public reprimands to or censured judges, ordered judges to forfeit money, and suspended judges for a period of time with or without pay.
Although the Court has the authority to discipline judges, the Court has no authority to remove a judge from office. Pursuant to the provisions of the Maine Constitution, that authority is reserved to the Legislature, through the impeachment process. In addition, all judges in Maine. except probate judges, serve for seven year terms, and the Governor may choose not to reappoint a judge.
The Committee is not an appellate court; it has no power to alter the decisions in the cases about which complaints are made. Disagreement with the merits of a judge’s decision is not a basis for asserting a violation of the Code.