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In re Judicial Disciplinary Proceedings Against Calvert

Supreme Court of Wisconsin

June 15, 2018

In the Matter of Judicial Disciplinary Proceedings Against the Honorable Frank M. Calvert:
v.
The Honorable Frank M. Calvert, Respondent. Wisconsin Judicial Commission, Complainant,

         JUDICIAL DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS AGAINST CALVERT

          For the complainant, there was a brief filed by Jeremiah Claude-Benedict Van Hecke and the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, Madison.

          For the respondent, there was a brief filed by The Honorable Frank M. Calvert.

          PER CURIAM.

         ¶1 We review, pursuant to Wis.Stat. § 757.91 (2015-16), [1] a Judicial Conduct Panel's findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendation for discipline for the Honorable Frank M. Calvert, a court commissioner for the Oconto County Circuit Court. We conclude that a 15-day suspension is the appropriate discipline for Commissioner Calvert's judicial misconduct.

         ¶2 Commissioner Calvert has been a circuit court commissioner for Oconto County for 19 years. He has not been the subject of any prior disciplinary action by the Wisconsin Judicial Commission.

         ¶3 The Judicial Commission filed a complaint against Commissioner Calvert on September 8, 2017, alleging that he had engaged in judicial misconduct by his actions, described below, in presiding over an action seeking a harassment injunction.

         ¶4 Commissioner Calvert did not file an answer to the complaint, which led the Judicial Commission to file a motion for default judgment. On January 2, 2018, Commissioner Calvert filed a letter with this court stating that he did not contest the facts alleged in the complaint.

         ¶5 Consistent with an order issued by the Judicial Conduct Panel, the parties filed briefs on the issue of the appropriate discipline to be imposed. After receiving these briefs, the Judicial Conduct Panel made findings of fact based on the uncontested allegations of the complaint. On the basis of those facts, the Judicial Conduct Panel made conclusions of law and recommended that this court suspend Commissioner Calvert for no fewer than five and no more than 15 days. This recommendation exceeded the disciplinary sanction that Commissioner Calvert suggested in his brief to the panel and in his January 2, 2018 letter to the court: a reprimand. The panel's recommendation more closely followed the sanction proposed by the Judicial Commission, which suggested discipline ranging from a reprimand to a short suspension.

         ¶6 The facts giving rise to the complaint are as follows. In September 2015, Commissioner Calvert received and reviewed a petition for a harassment injunction and a request for a temporary restraining order filed by the attorney for the petitioners against the respondents, who were the petitioners' next-door neighbors. This legal action was part of an ongoing dispute between the petitioners and the respondents. The petitioners alleged that the respondents had engaged in repeated harassment of the petitioners, including pointing surveillance cameras at the petitioners' house to record the petitioners' conduct.

         ¶7 Before holding any hearing or deciding whether to grant the petitioners' request for a temporary restraining order, Commissioner Calvert, on his own initiative, went to the City of Oconto Police Station and spoke with the City of Oconto Police Chief concerning the allegations in the petition. Commissioner Calvert asked for and obtained from the police chief a summary regarding the history of complaints and conflicts between these neighbors and their contacts with the Oconto Police Department over the years. The police chief told Commissioner Calvert that he had visited the respondents' residence and that there were no cameras pointed at the petitioners' property.

         ¶8 Commissioner Calvert also reviewed the neighbors' "contact file" kept by the Oconto Police Department, which included statements of police relating to the conflict, and asked the police chief if there was any basis for a citation to be issued. None of the parties to the case or the petitioners' attorney was present for Commissioner Calvert's conversation with the police chief or given advance notice of it.

         ¶9 Commissioner Calvert denied the petitioners' request for a temporary restraining order. In doing so, he considered the information provided by the police chief and contained in the police "contact file" regarding the neighbors.

         ¶10 At an injunction hearing held on October 1, 2015, Commissioner Calvert heard the testimony of several witnesses and arguments from both sides. Commissioner Calvert denied the injunction request. Before announcing his ruling, Commissioner Calvert did not disclose to the parties or the petitioners' attorney ...


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