The V.I. Commission on Judicial Conduct announced on Monday the launch of its website. The well-documented site provides clear answers to virtually any question about its role in the territory’s judicial world.
The commission was created in 2009 by Supreme Court Rule 209 to conduct investigations and hearings into complaints of ethical misconduct against justices of the V.I. Supreme Court, and judges and magistrates of the V.I. Superior Court.
Judicial conduct commissions exist in every state and territory and are responsible for overseeing the ethical conduct of judges both on and off the bench. They play a vital role in promoting public confidence in the judiciary and in preserving the integrity of the judicial process.
A little more than a year after the V.I. Commission on Judicial Disabilities was essentially dissolved in a ruling by District Court Judge Curtis Gomez saying that the territory’s Revised Organic Act of 1954 gives the V.I. Legislature no authority to remove judges or vest that authority in another body, the V.I. Supreme Court created a similar disciplinary panel now under its purview.
The now-defunct commission was established by the V.I. Legislature in 1976 and was vested with the authority to remove a judge from the bench for a felony conviction, or if the commission decided a judge had exercised willful misconduct in office, willful and persistent failure to perform judicial duties, or brought the judiciary into disrepute. According to then commission chairman Ronald Russell, the body rarely met.
The new commission’s meticulously organized website provides everything from a Complaint Form, (complaints cannot be filed with the V.I. Supreme Court, only with the CJC complaint form), to a copy of the Code of Judicial Conduct, to answers to FAQs such as whether a person’s identity will be revealed to a judge. (Answer: As a general rule, yes. The commission notifies judges about complaints unless there is good reason to withhold this information.)
The site lists the Rules for Judicial Disciplinary Enforcement, an exhaustively detailed document, as well as the commission’s background, scope of authority, organization and confidentiality.
The V.I. Supreme Court rules provide for the confidentiality of commission proceedings. The level of confidentiality is determined by the disposition of a complaint. If a complaint is dismissed (e.g., for lack of evidence or jurisdiction), the original complaint and the order resolving the case will not be released to the public.
The commission consists of nine members with diverse backgrounds who serve four-year terms.
Three judge members are appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and Presiding Judge of the Superior Court, one of whom is a magistrate.
Three attorney members are appointed: one by President of the V.I. Bar Association, one by the governor, and one by the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court.
Three public members, who cannot be attorneys or active or retired judges, are appointed: one by the governor and two by the president of the V.I. Legislature.
Current members are:
Attorney Treston Moore, appointed by Gov. John deJongh Jr. (term to expire on Aug. 1, 2014);
-Angel Morales, appointed by deJongh as a public member of the commission (term to expire on Aug. 1, 2014);
-Superior Court Judge Julio Brady, appointed by Chief Supreme Court Justice Rhys S. Hodge as a judicial member of the commission (term to expire on Aug. 1, 2014);
-Superior Court Judge James S. Carroll III, appointed by Hodge as another judicial member of the commission (term to expire on Aug. 1, 2013);
-Superior Court Magistrate Judge Jessica Gallivan, appointed by Superior Court presiding Judge Darryl D. Donohue as a judicial member of the commission (term to expire on Aug. 1, 2012);
-attorney Emile Henderson III, appointed by Donohue as an attorney member of the commission (term to expire on Aug. 1, 2013);
-Sharmane Brooks and Gaylord Sprauve, appointed as public members of the commission by Senate President Louis P. Hill (terms to expire on Aug. 1, 2012 and Aug. 1, 2014, respectively); and
-attorney Andrew Capdeville, appointed as an attorney member of the commission by V.I. Bar Association President attorney Richard Evangelista (term to expire on Aug. 1, 2012).
Commission officers include: Chair, Sharmane Brooks; Vice chair, Emile Henderson; and Secretary-Treasurer, Jessica Gallivan.