All complaints must be made in writing and mailed to the Judicial Conduct Board:
Judicial Conduct Board
Pennsylvania Judicial Center
601 Commonwealth Ave, Suite 3500
P.O. Box 62525
Harrisburg, Pa 17120-0901
Tips for Filing Complaints
- Provide detailed information about the matter about which you are complaining, including: the name and docket number of the underlying case, dates of hearings or incidents at issue, and a full narrative explaining the complained of conduct and identifying other witnesses to the conduct.
- Include copies of relevant documents or transcripts demonstrating or memorializing the complained of conduct.
- Do not include extraneous or irrelevant information as it could delay processing and make your complaint harder to understand and investigate. While some background information is helpful, the Judicial Conduct Board is interested in the alleged judicial misconduct, not the entire history of the underlying litigation.
- Keep copies of everything you submit to the Judicial Conduct Board, including the complaint and any supporting documentation.
Investigation of Complaints
The Judicial Conduct Board investigates all complaints it receives. First, there is a preliminary investigation, which includes a document review and may include some interviews with witnesses. The results of the investigation are presented to the Board for review. At this juncture, the Board will either dismiss the complaint as unsubstantiated or authorize a full investigation to determine if there is "clear and convincing evidence" of judicial misconduct. Following a full investigation, the Board will either dismiss the complaint as unsubstantiated or, if the investigation results in a finding of clear and convincing evidence of judicial misconduct, charges will be filed against the judge with the Court of Judicial Discipline.
There is no set time frame for how long an investigation will take, and the Judicial Conduct Board will not provide information over the telephone. However, the Judicial Conduct Board will advise you of the outcome of your complaint.
Referral of Charges to Court of Judicial Discipline
If charges are filed with the Court of Judicial Discipline, a conference judge will be appointed to handle pretrial matters. Ultimately, a trial will be held to determine whether sanctions will be imposed. If the Court finds "clear and convincing evidence" of misconduct, it can impose various types of discipline including reprimand; suspension for a specified time period, with or without pay; and permanent removal from office.
The harsher punishments may result in loss of retirement benefits as well. If a judge is found to be either mentally or physically disabled, the Court may order limitations on the judge's activities or retirement from the bench.
Decisions of the Court of Judicial Discipline may be appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but the scope of review is quite narrow: on the law, the Court employs plenary review; as to questions of fact, the standard of review is clearly erroneous; and as to sanctions, the Court may only determine whether the sanctions imposed were lawful.