To their credit, the commission has removed Chief Justice Thomas Fay, Justice Antonio Almeida and Justice John Fuyat but most of the credit for that has to go to the media for making the issues so public the Commission had no choice but to act. The common denominator in all 3 removals was misconduct involving money. Chief Justice Joseph Bevilacqua resigned before he was impeached and Chief Justice Williams resigned amid a firestorm of publicity of an improper relationship. What is that old saying? "A fish stinks from the head down.".
Note, the Supreme Court Disciplinary Board [for lawyers] appears to have the same myopic view of misconduct.
See editorial by Stephanie Riveria and decide if handling of complaints against Judges is appropriate for Judges who give themselves absolute judicial immunity. This commission has a mantra regarding complaints against judges which is, "we see no evidence of violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct or Canons of Judicial Ethics."
Read the Garganta Complaint if you thought a Judge had to follow the law. [Writ of Certiorari and appeals on same issues denied.] Also see the complaint by Citizen Edmund Brown. So where is the "discipline?"
Will the Commission respond appropriately to Myrth York's Challenge or the challenge from Arlene Violet and Operation Clean Government? As of 3-8-99 the commission "sees no wrongdoing" on the part of all but 2 judges. Eventually Judge Pallozzi received a private reprimand which is a joke by any reasonable standard of conduct, ethics or morals. Note this from the OCG site:
"The RI Commission on Judicial Tenure and discipline can't find fault with traffic court Judge John Lallo, but US Attorney Margaret Curran can. It is time to enact legislation to reform this incestuous do nothing commission which has stretched out its investigation of complaints of judicial misconduct against this judge. Operation Clean Government filed a complaint in February 1998 against 6 of the traffic court judges. Four complaints were dismissed, one received a private reprimand, but two years later there has been no resolution of the Judge Lallo complaint. Judge Lallo's alleged offenses violate the public trust in the states judicial system and merit at least some response from the mute Commission of Judicial Tenure and Discipline," said OCG's Chairman Robert Arruda."
Can you imagine a trial where the Judge tells one witness what to say and stops another witness from admitting perjury on the stand? Read Danny Brown's complaint and the Commission's response. In the Brown case, the commission also states there "is no evidence of violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct or Canons of Judicial Ethics" by Judge Sheehan yet the RI Supreme court said Judge Sheehan was vindictive and barred Sheehan from sitting on any of Mr. Brown's cases.
Two senate bills, S2370 and S2371 have been introduced by Senator Marc Cote at the request of Operation Clean Government and Common Cause. These bills would reform the Commission on Judicial Tenure and Discipline. The first would reduce the 14 member CJTD panel, which currently is comprised of judges and attorneys, to 9 and require that 3 of these not be attorneys. The second bill requires that the commission's preliminary investigation of complaints be completed within 60 days or go to a public hearing. "It is not surprising that this reform legislation has not even been heard in the senate judiciary committee," said OCG Board Member William Clay. "Since there are three General Assembly members including the chairwoman of the senate judiciary on the CJTD panel, who could expect to upset the cozy relation between the legislature and the judiciary."
See Magistrate Aurendina Veiga page for details.