- Associated Press - Monday, November 23, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - As public disciplinary hearings for an Oregon judge who refused to perform same-sex marriages begin, the public is able to get a rare glimpse of the state’s judicial disciplinary system.

The Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability heard evidence Friday in the case of Oregon Judge Vance Day, who is accused of breaking several rules from the Code of Judicial Conduct, including a requirement that judges “observe high standards of conduct” so their integrity and independence is preserved.

He is also accused of hanging a portrait of Adolf Hitler in the Salem courthouse, soliciting money from lawyers appearing before him, threatening a youth-sports referee, allowing a convicted felon to handle a gun, and lying to ethics investigators.

The commission receives more than 100 complaints each year, but most do not make it to a wider audience because they are not selected for prosecution, The Oregonian reports (https://bit.ly/1MMZYkO). Even fewer reach a public hearing.

The commission handles complaints confidentially until the case proceeds to a public hearing.

The judicial fitness panel has only disciplined 21 judges in the past 50 years. Many judges brought before the panel are formally charged but resign before the process ends. Others reach an agreement with the commission so that only the Oregon Supreme Court’s disciplinary record is made public.

If the commission finds a judge in violation, it will also decide on a sanction to recommend to the Oregon Supreme Court. The possible discipline is censure, suspension or removal from office.

In the past, judges have seen the commission for violations including being married to two women at once, being slow to rule, being ruled generally incompetent. Other judges faced censures for accusations of driving while intoxicated, domestic violence or sexual harassment.

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Information from: The Oregonian, https://www.oregonlive.com

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