§ 8-16-4. Employment of personnel Investigation of unfitness.
(a) The commission is empowered hereby to engage the services of legal, secretarial, clerical, and investigative employees and to make such other expenditures as are necessary for the effective performance of its functions.
(b) The commission, upon receiving from any person a verified statement, not unfounded or frivolous, alleging facts indicating that a justice of the supreme court, the superior court, the family court, the district court, the workers' compensation court, or the traffic tribunal, or a probate judge in any city or town in the state is guilty of a violation of the canons of judicial ethics, or of willful or persistent failure to perform his or her duties, disabling addiction to alcoholic beverages, drugs, or narcotics, or conduct that brings the judicial office into serious disrepute, or that such a judge has a physical or mental disability that seriously interferes and will continue to interfere with the performance of his or her duties, shall make a preliminary investigation to determine whether formal proceedings shall be instituted and a hearing held. The commission may, on its initiative, make a preliminary investigation, without receiving a verified statement, to determine whether formal proceedings shall be instituted and a public hearing held.
(c) If the preliminary investigation discloses that a charge of judicial unfitness of the kind mentioned in this section is supported by substantial evidence, it shall direct that a public hearing thereon be held, and the judge shall be notified of the investigation, the nature of the charge, and the time and place set for a hearing thereon. The judge shall have the right to counsel and to confront witnesses against him or her and shall be afforded a reasonable opportunity to present such matters in defense as he or she may choose. The notice shall be given by prepaid registered or certified mail addressed to the judge at his or her chambers or his or her last known place of residence. The judge shall file a written answer to the charges within twenty (20) days after the notice has been served upon him or her. Allegations contained in the notice that are not denied in the answer shall be deemed admitted. The notice and the answer shall be public documents. The judge shall attend the public hearing without the necessity of a subpoena being served upon him or her; and, if he or she is called as a witness by the commission at the public hearing, he or she shall take the witness stand and shall testify in the same manner as if under subpoena.
(d) If the preliminary investigation discloses that there exists a violation of the canons of judicial ethics and that violation is not one of a serious nature, the commission may in its discretion issue a private reprimand to the judge. The private reprimand shall caution the judge that the conduct complained of, if continued, may be the cause for discipline. The private reprimand shall include a statement of the facts found by the commission, as a result of the preliminary investigation, and may issue confidential suggestions and recommendations with respect to the judge. Any judge issued a private reprimand shall have the right to appeal the private reprimand within ten (10) days and request a hearing before the commission with the same rights accorded by this section; provided, however, that the hearing shall not be open to the public, and all evidence and proceedings relating to the private reprimand shall be kept confidential.
(e) Upon completion of the hearings, the commission may dismiss the case on the ground of insufficiency of proof or may recommend to the supreme court the censure, suspension, immediate temporary suspension, reprimand, retirement, or removal from office of the judge under investigation; provided, however, that the recommendation for the removal of a justice of the supreme court shall be subject to the provisions of § 8-16-7(b). For the purposes of this chapter, wherever the word "judge" appears, it shall be construed to include probate judges in the cities and towns of this state.
(f) The commission shall have the same authority to temporarily exclude all spectators from the public hearing as is possessed by justices of the superior court in criminal cases.
(P.L. 1974, ch. 136, § 1; P.L. 1976, ch. 312, § 1; P.L. 1981, ch. 257, § 1; P.L. 1982, ch. 32, art. 2, § 2; P.L. 1987, ch. 99, § 2; P.L. 1987, ch. 492, § 1; P.L. 1990, ch. 332, art. 1, § 13; P.L. 1991, ch. 132, § 2; P.L. 1991, ch. 205, § 2; P.L. 1996, ch. 312, § 1; P.L. 2007, ch. 334, § 1; P.L. 2007, ch. 402, § 1.)