NORTH CAROLINA GENERAL ASSEMBLY
HOUSE BILL 87
AN ACT TO CREATE A JUDICIAL STANDARDS COMMISSION WITH AUTHORITY TO RECOMMEND TO THE SUPREME COURT CENSURE OR REMOVAL OF JUDGES OF THE GENERAL COURT OF JUSTICE.
The General Assembly of North Carolina do enact:
Section 1. A new article is added to Chapter 7A of the General Statutes, to read as follows:
"Judicial Standards Commission.
"§ 7A-375. Judicial Standards Commission. — (a) The Judicial Standards Commission shall consist of: one Court of Appeals judge, one superior court judge, and one district court judge, each appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court- two members of the State Bar who have actively practiced in the courts of the State for at least ten years, elected by the State Bar Council; and two citizens who are not judges active or retired, nor members of the State Bar, appointed by the Governor. The Court of Appeals judge shall act as chairman of the commission.
(b) Terms of Commission members shall be for six years, except that to achieve overlapping of terms, one of the judges, one of the practicing members of the State Bar and one of the citizens shall be appointed initially for a term of only three years.
No member who has served a full six-year term is eligible for reappointment. If a member ceases to have the qualifications required for his appointment, he ceases to be a member. Vacancies are filled in the same manner as the original appointment, for the remainder of the term. Members who are not judges are entitled to per diem and reimbursement for travel and subsistence expenses at the rate applicable to members of state boards and commissions generally, for each day engaged in official.
"§ 7A-376. Grounds for censure or removal. — Upon recommendation of the Commission, the Supreme Court may censure or remove any justice or judge for wilful misconduct in office, wilful and persistent failure to perform his duties habitual intemperance, conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute Upon recommendation of the Commission, the Supreme Court may remove any justice or judge for mental or physical incapacity interfering with the performance of his duties, which is, or is likely to become, permanent. A judge removed for mental or physical incapacity is entitled to retirement compensation if he has accumulated the years of creditable service required for incapacity or disability retirement under any provision of state law, but he shall not sit as an emergency justice or judge. A judge removed for other than mental or physical incapacity receives no retirement compensation, and is disqualified from holding further judicial office.
"§ 7A-377. Procedures. — (a) Any citizen of the State may file a written complaint with the Commission concerning the qualifications or conduct of any justice or judge of the General Court of Justice, and thereupon the Commission shall make such investigation as it deems necessary. The Commission may also make an investigation on its own motion. The Commission is authorized to issue process to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence, to administer oaths, to punish for contempt, and to prescribe its own rules of procedure. No justice or judge shall be recommended for censure or removal unless he has been given a hearing affording due process of law. All papers filed with and proceedings before the Commission are confidential, unless the judge involved shall otherwise request. The recommendations of the Commission to the Supreme Court, and the record filed in support of the recommendations are not confidential. Testimony and other evidence presented to the Commission is privileged in any action for defamation. No other publication of such testimony or evidence is privileged, except that the record filed with the Supreme Court continues to be privileged. At least five members of the Commission must concur in any recommendation to censure or remove any justice or judge. A respondent who is recommended for censure or removal is entitled to a copy of the proposed record to be filed with the Supreme Court, and if he has objections to it, to have the record settled by the Commission. He is also entitled to present a brief and to argue his case, in person and through counsel, to the Supreme Court. A majority of the members of the Supreme Court voting must concur in any order of censure or removal. The Supreme Court may approve the recommendation, remand for further proceedings, or reject the recommendation. A justice of the Supreme Court or a member of the Commission who is a judge is disqualified from acting in any case in which he is a respondent.
(b) The Commission is authorized to employ an executive secretary to assist it in carrying out its duties. For specific cases, the Commission may also employ special counsel or call upon the Attorney General to furnish counsel."
Sec. 2. If any provision of this act or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications of the act which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions of this act are declared to be severable.
Sec. 3. This act is effective January 1, 1973, provided Article IV, Sec. 17 of the Constitution of North Carolina is amended by the amendment proposed in H.B. 86 ratified June 14, 1971, the same being entitled An Act to Amend Article IV of the Constitution of North Carolina As Amended Effective July 1, 1971, to Authorize the General Assembly to Prescribe Procedures for the Censure and Removal of Justices or Judges of the General Court of Justice. If the amendment proposed by H.B. 86 is not approved by the voters, this act shall be of no effect.
In the General Assembly read three times and ratified, this the 17th day of June, 1971.