Board of Judicial Conduct FAQs

I believe a judge has violated the Code of Judicial Conduct. How can I file a complaint?
To file a complaint, you must fill out a complaint form and send it to the Disciplinary Counsel of the Board of Judicial Conduct.

What is judicial misconduct?
Judicial misconduct generally is conduct that is in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which is Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10. The Code of Judicial Conduct lists various rules about how a judge should conduct himself or herself in court and out of court. In addition to judicial misconduct, the Board of Judicial Conduct may also consider a disability, either physical or mental, of a judge that substantially interferes with his or her judicial duties.

What are some things that the Board of Judicial Conduct may not consider?
The Board of Judicial Conduct is not an appeals court. It is not allowed to and cannot change any rulings of the judge in your case. For example, the Board of Judicial Conduct cannot change rulings relating to domestic relations or child custody matters, change a sentence in a criminal case or decide whether trial witnesses were believable. A complaint which generally alleges that the judge was unfair or biased is insufficient. A complaint must specifically set forth exactly what the judge did that you believe was unethical.

What will the Board of Judicial Conduct do with my complaint?
The disciplinary counsel will review your complaint and send it to a three member investigative panel to determine whether or not to investigate it further. If the complaint does not include specific facts which show grounds for judicial misconduct, the investigative panel will dismiss the complaint and notify you and the judge of the dismissal.

If the complaint contains information about a judge that sets out facts which, if true, indicate judicial misconduct, the disciplinary counsel will conduct a preliminary investigation. If evidence exists supporting the allegations, the investigative panel may authorize a full investigation, in which the judge will be required to respond in writing.

Once the full investigation is completed, the investigative panel may dismiss the case; recommend a disciplinary action, such as a private or public reprimand; a deferred discipline agreement with the judge (waiting to see if the judge corrects the behavior or fulfills certain requirements placed on the judge); refer the case to another agency such as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; or file formal, public charges against the judge.

If the panel directs the disciplinary counsel to file formal charges, a public trial may be held in front of a hearing panel, which consists of five other members of the Board of Judicial Conduct who were not on the investigative panel. It is only when formal charges are filed that the matter becomes public.

What kinds of disciplinary actions can be imposed?
If the Board of Judicial Conduct finds that the charges have been established by clear and convincing evidence, it has the power to impose a wide variety of sanctions ranging from a private or public reprimand to recommending that the legislature remove the judge from office. For more information about possible sanctions, please review TCA 17-5-301.

If a judge is sanctioned following a trial, he or she may appeal this decision to the Tennessee Supreme Court, whose decision is final. If the Supreme Court affirms the Board of Judicial Conduct's recommendation to remove a judge from office, the case is transferred to the legislature for a final determination. Judges may only be removed from office with a 2/3 vote of both houses of the legislature.

Does the Board of Judicial Conduct have jurisdiction to review a judge’s rulings?
No. The Board of Judicial Conduct is not an appellate court. It does not have authority to review, revise or correct any judge’s decision. Those rulings must be appealed to an appellate court through the legal process.

Can I get a judge off my case if I make a complaint against the judge?
No. An allegation of judicial misconduct does not remove the judge from your case and is not a substitute for filing a motion to recuse in court. You should seek the advice of your attorney about the procedure for attempting to remove a judge from your case.

Can I delay my case or an appeal until my complaint for judicial misconduct is concluded?
No. You must proceed with whatever remedy is available to you within the court system to correct any judicial errors you believe were committed in your case. Usually you must appeal within 30 days of the date of the decision with which you disagreed, or you may lose your right to appeal. Your complaint to the Board of Judicial Conduct is a matter totally separate and independent from your case in court and will be handled separately.

How long does it take to resolve a complaint for judicial misconduct?
Final disposition may take several months depending on the complexity of the matter. You will receive written notice of the final disposition at the appropriate time. If a judge is given a private reprimand or enters into a deferred disciplinary agreement, you will not be told by the Board the exact nature of the discipline which has been given the judge when you are informed the complaint has been resolved. However, this discipline may become public later if the judge repeats the misconduct or violates the deferred disciplinary agreement and receives public discipline as a result. The Board of Judicial Conduct cannot, under any circumstances, interfere with your pending case.

Does the Board of Judicial Conduct give legal advice?
No. The Board is not authorized to give legal advice to citizens or to represent clients.

Specifically, over what positions does the Board of Judicial Conduct have jurisdiction?
All Tennessee judges in the judicial branch, to include, but not limited to, appellate, trial, general sessions, probate, juvenile, municipal and any other judge sitting on or presiding over any court created by the general assembly. It also has jurisdiction over judicial candidates.  It does not have jurisdiction over federal judges or administrative law judges.

Does the Board of Judicial Conduct have the authority to remove a judge from office?
No. Only the legislature can remove a judge from office.

Are records of the Board of Judicial Conduct subject to public disclosure?
No.  By law matters that come before the Board are confidential unless formal charges are filed against the judge.

Does the Board of Judicial Conduct have jurisdiction over attorneys?
No. The Board does not have jurisdiction over attorneys. If you are filing a complaint against an attorney, please address your complaint to:

Board of Professional Responsibility
10 Cadillac Drive, Suite 220
Brentwood, TN 37027