Alabama Appellate Courts

Canons of Judicial Ethics and Discipline

Justices and judges, with the exception of part-time municipal court judges, are prohibited from engaging in the private practice of law while serving in a judicial position. A person holding office as a judge or justice is governed by standards of professional conduct known as the Canons of Judicial Ethics. The Canons of Judicial Ethics are available at the Judicial Inquiry Commission's web site and the State Law Library's website.

The Judicial Inquiry Commission, created under the provisions of the Alabama Constitution, is charged with investigating complaints of misconduct or professional wrongdoing on the part of judges. The Judicial Inquiry Commission, which consists of nine members, is authorized to file a complaint with the Court of the Judiciary if a majority of the members of the commission decide that a reasonable basis exists to charge a judge with a violation of any Canon of Judicial Ethics, misconduct in office, failure to perform his or her duties, or if the judge is physically or mentally unable to perform the duties of the office. The commissionis composed of an appellate judge appointed by the supreme court (cannot be a supreme court justice); two circuit judges appointed by the Circuit Judges' Association; one District Judge appointed by the Lt. Governor; three persons who are non-lawyers appointed by the governor with confirmation by the Senate; and two members of the State Bar appointed by the Board of Bar Commissioners. The commission serves a role similar to that of a grand jury. The commission may issue opinions on questions regarding the Canons of Judicial Ethics.

The Court of the Judiciary, upon receiving an official complaint from the Judicial Inquiry Commission, will convene to hold a public hearing on the charges filed against a judge and render a decision based on the evidence presented. The Court of the Judiciary is authorized to remove a judge from office, suspend a judge without pay, or censure a judge for violations of their duties. If a judge is found by the court to by physically or mentally incapable of performing the duties of the office, the court may suspend the judge with or without pay or retire the judge.

The nine-member court is composed of an appellate judge, who is selected by the Supreme Court (cannot be a Supreme Court justice); two circuit judges, appointed by the Circuit Judges' Association; a district judge, appointed by the District Judges' Association; two members of the State Bar, appointed by the Board of Bar Commissioners; two non-lawyers, appointed by the governor with senate confirmation; and one person appointed by the lieutenant governor with senate confirmation. This method of removing a judge from office replaces the impeachment method. Decisions of the Court of the Judiciary may be appealed directly to the Supreme Court.

Contact Information

Supreme Court of Alabama
Court of Civil Appeals
Court of Criminal Appeals
State Law Library