The supreme court may retire, discipline, or remove a judicial officer from office or may discipline or remove an employee of the judicial branch for cause as provided in this part.
§602.2102 Commission on Judicial Qualifications
A seven-member "Commission on Judicial Qualifications" is established. The commission consists of one district judge and two members who are practicing attorneys in Iowa and who do not belong to the same political party, to be appointed by the chief justice; and four electors of the state who are not attorneys, no more than two of whom belong to the same political party, to be appointed by the governor, subject to confirmation by the senate. The commission members shall serve for six-year terms, are ineligible for a second term, and except for the judicial member shall not hold any other office of and shall not be employed by the United States or the state of Iowa or its political subdivisions. Members appointed by the chief justice shall serve terms beginning January 1 of the year for which the appointments are made and members appointed by the governor shall serve staggered terms beginning and ending as provided by section 69.19. Vacancies shall be filled by appointment by the chief justice or governor as provided in this subsection, for the unexpired portion of the term.
If the judicial member is the subject of a charge before the commission, the chief justice shall appoint a district judge of another judicial district to act as the judicial member of the commission until the person charged is exonerated, or for the unexpired portion of the term if the person charged is not exonerated. If the judicial member is a resident judge of the same judicial district as the judicial officer who is the subject of a charge before the commission, the chief justice shall appoint a district judge of another judicial district to act as the judicial member during that proceeding.
The commission shall elect its own chairperson, and the state court administrator or a designee of the state court administrator is the executive secretary of the commission.
§602.2103 Operation of Commission
A quorum of the commission is four members. Only those commission members that are present at commission meetings or hearings may vote. An application by the commission to the supreme court to retire, discipline, or remove a judicial officer, or discipline or remove an employee of the judicial branch, or an action by the commission which affects the final disposition of a complaint, requires the affirmative vote of at least four commission members. Notwithstanding chapter 21 and chapter 22, all records, papers, proceedings, meetings, and hearings of the commission are confidential, but if the commission applies to the supreme court to retire, discipline, or remove a judicial officer, or to discipline or remove an employee of the judicial branch, the application and all of the records and papers in that proceeding are public documents.
§602.2104 Procedure before commission
Charges before the commission shall be in writing but may be simple and informal. The commission shall investigate each charge as indicated by its gravity. If the charge is groundless, it shall be dismissed by the commission. If the charge appears to be substantiated but does not warrant application to the supreme court, the commission may dispose of it informally by conference with or communication to the judicial officer or employee of the judicial branch involved. If the charge appears to be substantiated and if proved would warrant application to the supreme court, notice shall be given to the judicial officer and a hearing shall be held before the commission. The commission may employ investigative personnel, in addition to the executive secretary, as it deems necessary. The commission may also employ or contract for the employment of legal counsel.
In case of a hearing before the commission, written notice of the charge and of the time and place of hearing shall be mailed to a judicial officer or an employee of the judicial branch at the person's residence at least twenty days prior to the time set for hearing. Hearing shall be held in the county where the judicial officer or employee of the judicial branch resides unless the commission and the judicial officer or employee of the judicial branch agree to a different location. The judicial officer shall continue to perform judicial duties during the pendency of the charge and the employee shall continue to perform the employee's assigned duties, unless otherwise ordered by the commission. The attorney general shall prosecute the charge before the commission on behalf of the state. A judicial officer or employee of the judicial branch may defend and has the right to participate in person and by counsel, to cross-examine, to be confronted by the witnesses, and to present evidence in accordance with the rules of civil procedure. A complete record shall be made of the evidence by a court reporter. In accordance with its findings on the evidence, the commission shall dismiss the charge or make application to the supreme court to retire, discipline, or remove the judicial officer or to discipline or remove an employee of the judicial branch.
The commission has subpoena power, which may be used in conducting investigations and during the hearing process. A person who disobeys the commission's subpoena or who refuses to testify or produce documents as required by a commission subpoena may be punished for contempt in the district court for the county in which the hearing is being held or the investigation is being conducted. Costs related to investigations and to the appearance of witnesses subpoenaed by the designated prosecutor shall be paid by the commission. Commission subpoenas may be issued as follows:
During an investigation, subpoenas shall be issued by the commission, at the request of the person designated to conduct the investigation, to compel the appearance of persons or the production of documents before the person who is designated to conduct the investigation. The person designated to conduct the investigation shall administer the required oath.
During the hearing process, subpoenas shall be issued by the commission at the request of the designated prosecutor or the judicial officer or employee of the judicial branch.
The commission shall prescribe rules for its operation and procedure.
§602.2106 Procedure before supreme court
If the commission submits an application to the supreme court to retire, discipline, or remove a judicial officer or to discipline or remove an employee of the judicial branch, the commission shall promptly file in the supreme court a transcript of the hearing before the commission. The statutes and rules relative to proceedings in appeals of equity suits apply.
The attorney general shall prosecute the proceedings in the supreme court on behalf of the state, and the judicial officer or employee of the judicial branch may defend in person and by counsel.
Upon application by the commission, the supreme court may do any of the following:
Retire the judicial officer for permanent physical or mental disability which substantially interferes with the performance of judicial duties.
Discipline or remove the judicial officer for persistent failure to perform duties, habitual intemperance, willful misconduct in office, conduct which brings judicial office into disrepute, or substantial violation of the canons of judicial ethics. Discipline may include suspension without pay for a definite period of time not to exceed twelve months.
Discipline or remove an employee of the judicial branch for conduct which violates the code of ethics prescribed by the supreme court for court employees.
If the supreme court finds that the application should be granted in whole or in part, it shall render the decree that it deems appropriate.
§602.2107 Civil immunity
The making of charges before the commission, the giving of evidence or information before the commission or to an investigator or legal counsel employed by the commission, and the presentation of transcripts, extensions of evidence, briefs, and arguments in the supreme court are privileged in actions for defamation.