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I get lots and lots of questions about filing a complaint against a judge or from members who believe that a judge should recuse himself/herself so I think a section devoted to that topic is warranted. That said, I have had personal experience filing a judicial complain and have actually been successful. Mind you not on my first try but I learned from my first effort, did some research and made it stick the second time. Likewise, I have had a judge recuse himself, though of his own volition and not on a motion from me.

I cannot tell you (so don't ask) if you should file a complaint against a judge. What I can do is give some advice and all the resources you will need should you decide to file your complaint.

The advice:

This is brutal but true. If you cant prove that the judge has violated the code of judicial conduct (the rules judges must follow) you have zero chance of the judicial qualifications commission (the commission tasked with disciplining judges) doing anything as a result of your complaint. I didn't say the judge did something you believe is wrong or even something the entire population would condemn. I said, he/she must have violated one of a number of very specific rules that the judge has agreed to obey upon accepting the job. That's all they agreed to and that's all they are forced to abide by. PERIOD.

Also, I urge you to take this process very seriously. First, you are basically trying to get someone fired. That is serious, so treat it that way. Second, if your complaint gets publicity, you run the risk of irritating the other judges (one of whom you will be in front of if you succeed). I'm not telling you to be scared, I'm telling you to go in with your eyes open. Relate this to your own experiences. Have you ever had a job where you interacted with customers? If so, I'm sure you remember that one really irritating guy or gal who always complains and ALWAYS wants to talk to the manager. You rolled your eyes when they came in or called didn't you? If you said no, you lied. You are now going to be that irritating customer so be prepared for irritating customer treatment. Judges aren't robots, they are people just like the rest of us and they behave just like the rest of us.

The commission can't change the judge's decision. The Commission is not authorized to review decisions made by a judge or to grant any form of relief arising out of a lawsuit except to the extent that the actions of the judge in the case constitutes a violation of one of the grounds set out in the code of judicial conduct.

The resources:
The first thing you should have is the Supreme Court's guide to filing a complaint. You can't go wrong with their guidelines and it tells you where to send your complaint; however, they don't tell you how to build your case. The guide points out that aside from the code of judicial conduct, that Article V, Section 30, of the Nebraska Constitution and Nebraska Revised Statute Section 24- 722 (Reissue 1989) specifically set out the grounds for which a judge may be reprimanded, disciplined, censured, suspended without pay for a definite period of time not to exceed six
months, or removed from office. Keep in mind, the Code of judicial Conduct is in part based on the constitution and Nebraska law. My advice is to stick to the code as it is easier to follow.

The first thing you need to do is identify the violation. Get a transcript, copy of the judge's order or whatever document you can use to prove the violation occurred. Review the document and compare it to the Code of Judicial Conduct and find specifically what the judge did and point out EXACTLY which rule was violated. Example: My former judge ruled on a motion I filed and recused himself in the very same order. I had launched a small campaign to have him voted out during the retention election and he and I had gone back and forth in the press a bit so it made sense for him to step down. What didn' make sense was him ruling on my motion.

The simple argument:

My argument was as follows:
The CJC is quite clear. "A judge shall not participate in any proceeding in which the judge's impartiality reasonably might be questioned (Section 3(e) of the Nebraska Code of Judicial Conduct)". Since the judge was aware that his impartiality might reasonably be questioned (as witnessed by his recusing himself), he was not at liberty to rule on my motion and by doing so violated the code of conduct. It was a very simple argument but there was no room for him defend against it. After all, he entered a recusal and ruled on the motion in the same order. Short and sweet. See the entire complaint here.

The complex argument:

Back in January 2005, State Senator Ernie Chambers drafted a complaint against the same judge. Senator Chambers is well known for his clear and eloquent communication style. A talent demonstrated well in his complaint. In addition, Senator Chambers has completed law school and been party to the creation of more laws than I care to guess at. In his complaint, Senator chambers outlined a number of legal arguments and included newspaper reports, sections of law, and sections of the code of judicial conduct. In addition, he made some very powerful arguments in common sense. Though it is probably unlikely that a lay person such as myself (and presumably the reader here) will have the ability to create a complaint to rival Senator Chamber's it is certainly worth reading and using in full or in part as a guide. See the complaint here.