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Rule 6: Investigative Panels

Rule 6: Investigative Panels

Sec. 1. Designation of Investigative Panels.

The presiding judge shall designate such investigative panels as in the presiding judge's discretion are necessary to the efficient operation of the Court.


 Each investigative panel shall be comprised of three members of the Court, and a member may serve on more than one investigative panel. The presiding judge shall not serve as a member of any investigative panel. In appointing the investigative panels, the presiding judge shall give due consideration to the composition of each panel so that to the extent feasible, public members, practicing attorneys and judges of various courts are represented on each panel. Each of the members of the various investigative panels may be from the same geographic region of the State so as to promote communication and meetings among panel members. The presiding judge may designate alternate members to serve on investigative panels in the event that a member of an investigative panel is recused from considering a particular matter.

Sec. 2. Coordinators of Investigative Panels.

Each investigative panel shall designate a member of the investigative panel to serve as coordinator of that investigative panel. The coordinator of each investigative panel shall be responsible for scheduling periodic meetings of the investigative panel (whether in person or by telephone conference call) for communicating to disciplinary counsel on behalf of the investigative panel, and for handling any other administrative matters that the presiding judge shall designate to be handled with respect to the investigative panel.

Sec. 3. Meetings of Investigative Panels.

(a) Meetings of Investigative Panels. Promptly upon receipt of a complaint or upon receipt of a report and recommendations from the disciplinary counsel, the investigative panel shall review the matter. Upon the call of any member of an investigative panel, or if panel decision is not unanimous with respect to a matter, the coordinator shall schedule a meeting of the investigative panel to review the matter(s). The meeting may be conducted in person or by telephone conference call, provided that if the meeting is conducted by telephone conference call, every member of the panel must be able to hear and to speak to every other member of the panel.

(b) Initial Review of Complaint. Upon receipt of a complaint or file from the disciplinary counsel, an investigative panel shall review the matter and shall:

(i) authorize a full investigation; or
(ii) dismiss the complaint.

The coordinator shall communicate the investigative panel's decision promptly in writing to the disciplinary counsel.

(c) Review after Full Investigation. When an investigative panel has authorized a full investigation of a complaint or matter, then promptly upon its receipt of the disciplinary counsel's report of the investigation and recommendation, the investigative panel shall review the report and recommendations and shall:

(i) approve the recommendations of disciplinary counsel;
(ii) modify the recommendations of disciplinary counsel; or
(iii) disapprove the recommendations of disciplinary counsel.

(d) Action of Investigative Panel After Investigation. After investigation and upon determining that there is probable cause to believe that a judge has committed a judicial offense, the investigative panel shall:

(i) direct disciplinary counsel to file formal charges against the judge; or
(ii) propose to the judge that the judge consent to a private admonition; or
(iii) propose to the judge that the judge consent to a deferred disciplinary agreement (as defined in Tenn. Code Ann. § 17-5-301(g)).

In the event the judge consents to the private admonition or deferred disciplinary agreement, then the private admonition or deferred disciplinary agreement shall be administered as set forth in Rule 7. In the event the judge does not consent to the private admonition or deferred disciplinary agreement, then the investigative panel shall direct disciplinary counsel either to file formal charges against the judge or to dismiss the complaint.

Sec. 4. Frivolous Complaints—Destruction of Records.

In the event the investigative panel determines that the charges are frivolous or unfounded, or would not constitute misconduct or incapacity if true, or are beyond the permissible scope of the Court's inquiry, the investigative panel shall dismiss the charges. The matter will then be closed, and the Court's docket will recite the investigation and dismissal of a groundless complaint.

Sec. 5. Formal Charges.

If an investigative panel determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that a judge committed a judicial offense and the investigative panel directs that disciplinary counsel file a formal charge as provided in Tenn. Code Ann. § 17-5-304(e), then prior to the filing of the formal charge the investigative panel shall review and approve the form and content of such formal charge. Such formal charge shall be signed by disciplinary counsel and the members of the investigative panel who directed that the formal charge be filed.

Sec. 6. Consensus by Investigative Panels.

 In the event that the members of an investigative panel are not able to reach a consensus after due consideration by meeting in person or by meeting via a conference call in which every member of the panel can hear and speak to every other member of the panel, then the investigative panel may act upon the concurrence of two of its three members. In the event that no two members of an investigative panel concur in the decision, then the presiding judge shall direct that the matter be assigned to another investigative panel for consideration. In the event the second investigative panel recommends the filing of formal charges, no member of either the first investigative panel or the second investigative panel shall serve on the hearing panel for such matter.

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