COLUMBIA, S.C. (CN) – A John Doe administrative law judge sued the South Carolina Ethics Commission to try to keep its expected private reprimand from being made public.
The Ethics Commission accused Judge Doe of violating the Code of Judicial Conduct, according to the judge’s complaint in Richland County Court.
“The commission investigated the allegations, and the petitioner anticipates that the matter will warrant a private reprimand,” Judge Doe says.
“The commission has indicated that even in the event that a private reprimand is warranted, it intends to reveal the private reprimand as a matter of public record,” the complaint states.
The anonymous judge says that the commission feels bound by a recent amendment to state law, which states that “all actions taken by the commission on complaints, except on alleged violations which are found to be groundless by the commission, are a matter of public record upon final disposition.”
But Judge Doe says another South Carolina law allows issuance of private sanctions to administrative law judges, “including a private letter of caution and a private reprimand, as one of the many sanctions available under these rules.”
“Indeed, private sanctions have been an important disciplinary tool for state judges for as long as South Carolina agencies have been responsible for the administrative and enforcement of the Code of Judicial Conduct,” the judge says.
“Never before have private sanctions for a judicial officer been revealed as a matter of public record,” Judge Doe adds.
He seeks declaratory judgment that South Carolina law does not mandate disclosure of a private reprimand and that the state Ethics Commission is authorized to issue a private reprimand and to maintain the privacy of the disciplinary proceeding.
Judge Doe is represented by Gregory P. Harris with Harris & Gasser.