The Judicial Conference of the United States is the national policy-making body for the federal courts, adopting rules such as the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges in order to maintain standards of ethical behavior. The Conference also oversees the Circuit Conference, which manages the lower courts.
Rules for Judicial-Conduct and Judicial-Disability Proceedings (the "Rules"), including commentary. First adopted on March 11, 2008, and most recently amended March 12, 2019, the Rules apply to all federal courts in order "to establish standards and procedures for addressing complaints filed by complainants or identified by chief judges" according to the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980, 28 U.S.C. §§ 351-364 (the "Act"). Prior to adoption (March 12, 2019) of the most recent amendments to the Rules, there were public hearings and published reports. Access to these amendment materials can be found on the website, as well.
Connecting the Code, the Rules, and the Act
The Code of Conduct is "designed to provide guidance to judges and nominees for judicial office. It may also provide standards of conduct for application in proceedings under the ... Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980 (28 U.S.C. §§ 332(d)(1), 351-364). Not every violation of the Code should lead to disciplinary action. " See, Code, Canon 1, Commentary.
According to the US Courts webpage Judicial Conduct & Disability:
The Rules are intended to provide "mandatory and nationally uniform provisions governing the substantive and procedural aspects of misconduct and disability proceedings" under the Act.
The Rules do NOT address claims "challeng[ing] the correctness of a judge's decision in a case."
The U.S. Court website also provides access and extensive list of frequently asked questions (FAQ's), including who and what can be complained about, as well as where and how to file a complaint.
Also covered are questions of who will consider the complaint and the how to appeal the decision.
For a legislative insights on Judicial Conduct and Disability, see An Examination of the Judicial Conduct and Disability System: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Thirteenth Congress, First Session, April 25, 2013.
Fourth Judicial Circuit (including North Carolina)
As a part of the United States (federal) Court system, the Fourth Circuit references the ethics policies of the Federal Court on its Judicial Conduct and Disability webpage, including the FAQ page located therein.
Specifically accessible at this site are
Judicial Complaint Orders (full-text, searchable)
Judicial complaints are to be filed with the "clerk’s office of the United States court of appeals for the regional circuit in which the judge serves." See, FAQ page. Since North Carolina is part of the Fourth Circuit, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals hears complaints against federal judges in North Carolina.
Federal Ethics Policy webpage, found on the U.S. Courts website, with further links to
The Judicial Standards Commission (the "Commission") was established in 1973 to "consider complaints against judges of the state’s General Court of Justice," chiefly district court judges, superior court judges and appellate court judges and justices. One of its purposes is the "consideration and investigation of citizen complaints that a judge violated the Code of Judicial Conduct."
The Commission is composed of "13 members, including judges, attorneys, and citizens," and "[m]embers are appointed by the Judicial Branch, the State Bar, the General Assembly, and the Governor."
Not subject to the Commission's authority are administrative law judges, federal judges, magistrates, district attorneys, clerks of court, court employees or personnel, or private attorneys.
Form for filing a complaint can be found on the state court website. Note that a complaint against the judge on a case is not the same as appealing that judge's ruling(s) in the case.
See the Judicial Standards Commission Fact Sheet for complete information on the Commission's purpose and function.
North Carolina Rules of Court encompass the Rules of the Judicial Standards Commission, Rules for Supreme Court Review of the Recommendations of the Judicial Standards Commission, and the Code of Judicial Conduct. The Rules of Court (and their subparts) can be accessed as follows.
North Carolina Rules of Court are published and maintained in a separate volume of the North Carolina General Statutes, entitled Annotated Rules of North Carolina.
Available online at Westlaw, with account access.
Available online through UNC Libraries (Lexis), with account access.