Retirement, Censure, Suspension and Removal of Judges; Judicial Commission.

1. As used in this amendment: "Judge" means a justice of the supreme court, a judge of the court of appeals, or a judge of any circuit court, probate court, municipal court, or other court of record. "Commission" means judicial commission. "Retire" means to place on supervisory status if available. "Chairman" includes the acting chairman. "Masters" means special master appointed by the supreme court upon request of the commission. "Presiding master" means a master so designated by the supreme court or in the absence of such designation, the judge first named in the order appointing masters. "Shall" is mandatory and "may" is permissive.

2. A judicial commission is hereby created which shall be authorized to investigate, conduct hearings on the qualifications of judges and make recommendations to the supreme court in regard to the retirement, censure, suspension or removal of such judges. The commission shall consist of: one judge of the court of appeals to be appointed by the supreme court; two judges of circuit courts to be appointed by the circuit judges association; one probate judge to be appointed by the probate judges association; one judge of a municipal court to be appointed by the supreme court; two practicing attorneys who shall be members in good standing of the state bar who shall have practiced law in this state for at least ten years and who shall be appointed by the board of commissioners of the state bar, and two citizens neither of whom shall be a judge, active or retired, nor a member of the state bar, and who shall be appointed by the governor subject to the approval of the Alabama senate. The terms of these members shall be for six years. Of the initial appointees, three (a circuit judge, the judge of the court of appeals and a citizen) shall be appointed for six years; three members (the municipal court judge, the probate judge and a practicing attorney) shall be appointed for four years; and three members (a circuit judge, a practicing attorney and a citizen) shall be appointed for three years. Commission membership shall terminate if a member ceases to hold the position that qualified him for appointment. A vacancy shall be filled by the appointing power for the remainder of the term; provided, that if the appointing power shall not fill the vacancy within sixty days, replacement shall be made by majority vote of the commission.

No member shall receive any compensation for his services as such but shall be allowed his necessary expenses for travel, board and lodging incurred in the performance of his duties as such, which shall be paid from the state treasury on claims filed with the state comptroller.

No act of the commission shall be valid unless concurred in by a majority of its members. The commission shall select one of its members to serve as chairman.

3. A judge, in accordance with the procedure prescribed in this section, may be censured, suspended, or removed for action occurring not more than six years prior to the commencement to his current term that constitutes willful misconduct in office, willful and persistent failure to perform his duties, habitual intemperance, or conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute, or he may be retired for disability that seriously interferes with the performance of his duties and is or is likely to become permanent. The judicial commission may, after such investigation as the commission deems necessary, order a hearing to be held before it concerning the censure, suspension, removal or retirement of a judge, or the commission may in its discretion request the supreme court to appoint three special masters, who shall be justices or judges of courts of record, to hear and take evidence in any such matter, and to report thereon to the commission. If, after hearing, or after considering the record and report of the masters, the commission finds good cause therefor, it shall recommend to the supreme court the censure, suspension, removal or retirement, as the case may be, of the judge.

The supreme court shall review the record of the proceedings on the law and facts and in its discretion may permit the introduction of additional evidence and shall order censure, suspension, removal or retirement, as it finds just and proper, or wholly reject the recommendation. Upon an order for retirement, the judge shall be considered to have retired voluntarily and shall thereby be retired with the same rights and privileges as if he retired pursuant to statute. Upon an order for removal, the justice or judge shall thereby be removed from office, and his salary shall cease from the date of such order. A judge removed by the supreme court shall be ineligible for judicial office and pending further order of the supreme court he shall be suspended from practicing law in this state.

All papers filed with and proceedings before the judicial commission or masters appointed by the supreme court, pursuant to this section, shall be confidential, and the filing of papers with and the giving of testimony before the commission or the masters shall be privileged; but no other publication of such papers or proceedings shall be privileged in any action for defamation except that (a) the record filed by the commission in the supreme court continues privileged and upon such filing loses its confidential character and (b) a writing which was privileged prior to its filing with the commission or the masters does not lose such privilege by such filing. The judicial conference shall by rule provide for procedure under this section before the judicial commission, the masters, and the supreme court. A judge who is a member of the commission or supreme court shall not participate in any proceedings involving his own censure, suspension, removal or retirement.

A judge shall be disqualified from acting as a judge, without loss of salary, while there is pending (1) an indictment on an information charging him in the United States with a crime punishable as a felony under Alabama or federal law or (2) a recommendation to the supreme court by the judicial commission for his censure, suspension, removal or retirement.

On recommendation of the commission or on its own motion, the supreme court may suspend a judge from office without salary when in the United States he pleads guilty or no contest or is found guilty of a crime punishable as a felony under Alabama or federal law or of any other crime that involves moral turpitude under that law. If his conviction is reversed, suspension terminates, and he shall be paid his salary for the period of suspension. If he is suspended and his conviction becomes final, the supreme court shall remove him from office.

4. This amendment is self-executing. The commission is authorized and directed to make rules not inconsistent with the provisions of this amendment implementing this amendment and providing for the confidentiality of proceedings.

5. The provisions of article VII, sections 173 and 174 are hereby repealed insofar as they relate to a judge as defined herein.

6. The legislature is authorized to provide a retirement program for judges of the circuit courts and various appellate courts now or hereafter created in this state.