A. Initiation of Inquiry. In accordance with these rules, any sworn or verified complaint brought to the attention of the Commission stating facts that, if true, would be grounds for discipline, shall be good cause to initiate an inquiry relating to the conduct of a judge. The Commission on its own motion may make inquiry with respect to the conduct of a judge. All complaints shall bear the name of the complainant, unless anonymous or based upon media reports. If the complaint is anonymous or based upon a media report, it shall be signed by the Executive Director, but not sworn. If the Executive Director, an individual staff member, Commissioner member or Alternate files, solicits, or initiates a complaint, he or she shall sign the sworn complaint. All contacts with potential witnesses shall be in accordance with these Rules.
B. Screening. The Executive Director shall dismiss all complaints that are clearly outside of the Commission’s jurisdiction. A report as to matters so dismissed shall be furnished to the Commission at its next meeting. The complainant, if any, and the judge shall be informed in writing of the dismissal.
C. Investigation of Complaints. All complaints not summarily dismissed by the Executive Director shall then be presented to an Investigation Panel. The Investigation Panel shall dismiss all complaints for which sufficient cause to proceed is not found by that Panel. If the complaint is not dismissed, the Panel shall then direct the staff to make a prompt, discreet, and confidential investigation. In no instance may the staff undertake any investigation or make any contact with anyone other than the complainant and the judge unless authorized to do so by the Investigation Panel. If authorized by the Investigation Panel, subpoenas may be used to obtain documents, procure witness statements, and collect other evidence requested by the Panel. Upon completion, the Panel shall review the findings from the investigation. The Panel shall dismiss all complaints for which sufficient cause to proceed is not found. A report as to matters so dismissed shall be furnished to the Commission at its next meeting. The complainant and the judge shall be informed in writing of the dismissal.
D. Mandatory Notice to the Judge. If a complaint, or any portion of it, is not dismissed by the Investigation Panel following the discreet and confidential investigation, then the Panel shall notify the judge in writing immediately of those portions of the complaint that the Panel has concluded warrant further examination and attention. The judge shall receive the complaint, or any portion of the complaint that is not dismissed, along with any information prepared by or for the Panel or staff to enable the judge to adequately respond to the issues in the complaint. The judge shall be invited to respond to each of the issues from the complaint that the Panel has identified as possible violations of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct. The time for the judge to respond shall be within 30 days unless shortened or enlarged by the Investigation Panel for good cause.
E. Dismissal or Formal Statement of Allegations. The Investigation Panel may dismiss the complaint with notice to the complainant and the judge, upon a finding of probable cause that the judge violated the Code of Judicial Conduct, it may direct that a formal statement of allegations citing specific provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct alleged to have been violated and the specific facts offered in support of the alleged violation(s), be prepared and served on the responding judge along with all materials prepared by the Panel or staff. Service may be by any means provided for service of process in the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure.
F. Answer. The judge shall file a written answer with the Executive Director within thirty (30) days after the service upon him/her of the statement of allegations, unless such time is enlarged by the Executive Director. The answer may include a description of circumstances of a mitigating nature bearing on the charge.
Amended and effective by per curiam order Sep. 26, 2013.