On an average year the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board gets close to 450 complaints, but a step by step walk through of the complaint process shows that a majority of cases are dismissed before any investigation into the complaint occurs. Of the minority of complaints that do get investigated, most are dismissed or dealt with confidentially. Even fewer complaints are made known to the public.
From 2001 to 2012, the Judicial Inquiry Board received an average of 442 complaints annually. A submitted complaint is first reviewed by the nine-member board during the monthly meeting. At this initial review, the board decides whether the accusations against a judge appear to have merit or should be immediately closed. Roughly 80 to 90 percent of complaints are closed by the board at this stage, eliminating 362 complaints on average.
The board votes to request further investigation on the remaining complaints, sending an average of 79 complaints to the Judicial Inquiry Board staff.
The board’s five full-time staff includes two investigators. At the investigative stage the staff might gather court records and official documents related to the case, interview people related to the complaint or ask for a written explanation from a judge who is accused of misconduct. Several complaints are dismissed after investigation.
On average, the board makes 19 requests for judges to appear before the board for questioning.
The Judicial Inquiry Board can now dismiss a complaint with no action or move the case forward. On average nine complaints end with a judge receiving a private admonishment, or warning, from the board, two judges will retire or resign and two complaints will be made public. If a formal complaint is issued by the Judicial Inquiry Board, it is now passed on to the Illinois Courts Commission, the group responsible for sanctioning or dismissing public complaints.