Wednesday, June 19, 2013

NFF member Vaughn Crowell's complaint to the Nebraska Judicial Qualifications Commission

 Every two years the Nebraska State Bar Association (NSBA) conducts a judicial evaluation survey to “assure that the citizens of Nebraska have a justice system that is fair, impartial, honest and effective” (NSBA letter dated July 13, 2012). The Bar posts the results of these evaluations on their web site.

In  the past four surveys, the evaluations for Judge Elizabeth G. Crnkovich of the Separate Juvenile Courts, Douglas County Nebraska have shown that more than half of the attorneys completing the survey answered “No” to the question on the survey; In your opinion, should this judge be retained in office? (Regarding Judge Crnkovich, 56.6% answered “No” in 2012, 62.7% answered “No” in 2010, 57.63% answered “No” in 2008 and 52.0% answered “No” in 2006 (NSBA Judicial Evaluations, 2012, 2010, 2008, 2006)). About 10% of attorneys answered “No” to the same question for many of the other Judges in Nebraska.

I believe the continued low ratings for Judge Crnkovich on the Bar survey are unacceptable and prejudice the administration of justice in the Separate Juvenile Court, Douglas County Nebraska.

Accordingly, I have filed the following complaint to the Nebraska Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Thank you for taking the time to read my complaint to the Commission.


Commission on Judicial Qualifications                                                                       16 June, 2013
Nebraska Supreme Court
P.O. Box 98910
Lincoln, NE 68509

To whom it may concern:

I Vaughn Crowell a citizen of the state of Nebraska, resident of Douglas County hereby submit the following complaint to the Nebraska Judicial Qualifications Commission, as allowed by Nebraska Revised Statute 24-721 (24-721. Commission; complaint or request filed by citizen; investigation; proceedings; rights of judge or justice; special master; commission; recommendations; rules)
My complaint (below) concerns Judge Elizabeth G. Crnkovich of the Separate Juvenile Court, District 4, Douglas County Nebraska. Judge Crnkovich has been evaluated with repeated low ratings from the Nebraska State Bar Association (NSBA) which reasonably brings to question the fairness, impartiality, honesty, effectiveness and integrity of the Douglas County Separate Juvenile Courts, specifically, the Court of Judge Crnkovich. (NSBA Judicial Evaluations, 2012, 2010, 2008, 2006)

WHEREAS, Nebraska Revised Statute 24-721 allows; “Any citizen of the State of Nebraska shall have the right at all times to complain to the Commission on Judicial Qualifications with reference to the acts, activities, or qualifications of any Justice or judge of the Supreme Court or judge of any of the courts of the State of Nebraska or to request that the commission consider the qualifications of any Justice or judge of the Supreme Court or judge of any of the courts of the State of Nebraska.”
            WHEREAS, Judge Elizabeth G. Crnkovich is a Judge in the Separate Juvenile Court, District 4, Douglas County Nebraska.
            WHEREAS, the Nebraska State Bar Association (NSBA) conducts judicial evaluation surveys every two years. And, whereas in a letter to fellow Nebraskans date July 13, 2012, regarding the survey, the President of the NSBA writes; “The Nebraska State Bar Association is committed to doing all it can to assure that the citizens of Nebraska have a justice system that is fair, impartial, honest and effective. Towards this end, the Nebraska Bar Association every two years asks its member lawyers to evaluate the performance of the judges that serve our justice system.

            WHEREAS, the NSBA survey for the years 2012, 2010, 2008 and 2006 show that (when attorneys rated Judge Elizabeth G. Crnkovich) more than half of the attorneys answered “No” to the question on the surveys; In your opinion, should this judge be retained in office? (Regarding Judge Crnkovich, 56.6% answered “No” in 2012, 62.7% answered “No” in 2010, 57.63% answered “No” in 2008 and 52.0% answered “No” in 2006 (NSBA Judicial Evaluations, 2012, 2010, 2008, 2006))
     
            WHEREAS, the NSBA survey in 2010, shows the (average) ratings for Judge Crnkovich on all questions failed to reach a satisfactory rating (3 = Satisfactory) and that in the 2012 NSBA survey, Judge Crnkovich was rated “3.00” (Satisfactory) in only one of the 11 areas evaluated. 
            WHEREAS, Nebraska Revised Statue 24-722 states: (24-722 Justice or judge; discipline or removal; grounds.) A Justice or judge of the Supreme Court or judge of any court of this state may be reprimanded, disciplined, censured, suspended without pay for a definite period of time not to exceed six months, or removed from office for (1) willful misconduct in office, (2) willful disregard of or failure to perform his or her duties, (3) habitual intemperance, (4) conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, (5) disbarment as a member of the legal profession licensed to practice law in the State of Nebraska, or (6) conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute, or he or she may be retired for physical or mental disability seriously interfering with the performance of his or her duties if such disability is determined to be permanent or reasonably likely to become permanent.
WHEREAS, The Annotations in 24-722 (in part) state:
Crucial to the finding that subsection (1) of this section has been violated is a showing of bad faith. Although a certain amount of "honest" error can be expected, blatant, flagrant, and repeated failures to perform judicial duties constitutes a violation of subsection (2) of this section. A clear violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct constitutes, at minimum, a violation of subsection (6) of this section. In re Complaint Against Kelly, 225 Neb. 583, 407 N.W.2d 182 (1987).

WHEREAS, Article XV-1 of the Nebraska Constitution (Oath of Office) requires the person to discharge duties of the office to the best of their ability.
WHEREAS, Judge Crnkovich is repeatedly one of the lowest (if not the lowest) rated Judges in the state of Nebraska according to the NSBA judicial evaluations survey (2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012).

WHEREAS, Judges draw a salary from the citizen tax-payers of the State of Nebraska and the tax-payers expect that the Judges perform their duties to the highest standard. 
WHEREAS, it may be reasonably assumed that justice suffers when there is diminished confidence in the judiciary.

WHEREAS, The Nebraska Judicial Qualifications Commission has an obligation to address the poor performance of Judges in the state of Nebraska and ensure the integrity and competency of the judiciary.

NOW, therefore, I request the Nebraska Judicial Qualifications Commission investigate my complaint regarding the repeated low ratings for Judge Elizabeth G. Crnkovich and to investigate whether her low ratings prejudice the administration of justice in the Separate Juvenile Court, Douglas County Nebraska.
Sincerely

Vaughn Crowell

1 comment: