2016 Term Starts!

Well, that was fast. The first term of the Judge Conduct Committee is now complete! We’ve got several pieces to touch on in this update, and it’s been delayed a bit (but not too long). We have updates to the Magic Judge Code, some new and departing Committee members, and a year-end statistical summary. See below!

Updates to the Magic Judge Code

The Magic Judge Code has been updated! You can find it here.


The need for these updates was identified in the course of reviewing the documents and our first year of work. Each change represents a way in which we have been flexible in matching our practice to the real world. We’re committed to continuously learning and improving how we serve the judge community and the Magic community more broadly, and these changes are ways the JCC is fulfilling that commitment.

What changed?

Most of the changes serve to clean up and clarify some concepts. There’s more work to do, and I’m sure our refreshed Committee is up to the task, especially with our new leadership.

  • Added references to WotC potentially taking the lead on serious and exceptional cases, such as those involving criminal allegations.
  • Closed a technical loophole whereby some may have argued, “WotC suspended me from the DCI, not the PIC, so I shouldn’t be suspended as a judge, right?” This is not a change in practice, as WotC-issued suspensions have been addressed identically to PIC suspensions prior to the recent suspensions, and will continue to be addressed in the same way.
  • Specified the preferred method of communication with judge and their advocate are via their JudgeApps e-mail addresses.
  • Added language to Significant Diplomacy Failure to stress that we’re really not monitoring Facebook or other social media. For the Committee to act, the issue should be specific rather than generally being unfriendly and antisocial.
  • Clarified some details regarding suspensions by adding specific references to conferences and Exemplar.
  • Formally added RCs to list of groups who have input in the Committee composition.
  • Added details to explain the role of an advocate. We removed the requirement that the advocate be a L3+ judge. L3+ judges remain “recommended” for advocate roles, but in practice L2 judges have been fine advocates where the judge in question feels most comfortable with them.
  • Minor typo fixes, including layout, page numbering fixes, and a linked table of contents. This also split the former “Appendix A – Identifying and Resolving Misconduct” into relevant sections, so it’s no longer an appendix.

New and Departing Committee Members

We have our refreshed Judge Conduct Committee! You’ll see that our list of members has been updated here.

Why? We made a commitment in our initial announcement that the Committee would be updated every year with each current member needing to apply to stay on and new members potentially cycled through. We had 16 L3+ judges apply, including eight of the existing nine members. I gathered feedback from the L4 and L5 judges as well as the RCs.

If you clicked the link above, you’ll see that Johanna Virtanen (L3 and RC, Finland) is our new Committee Chair! Not only that, but she’ll also be the lead for the Player Investigations Committee. These are two important roles, and we’ve learned in the past term that communication between the PIC and JCC is a benefit to both groups.

But Johanna’s worthiness to take on the role of Committee Chair is not just a matter of selecting one of the existing members and promoting them. When I polled the L4s, L5s, and RCs, 15 of the two dozen responding said “absolutely include her”. That’s more than any other person who applied, except me (17), and far more than the next-closest applicant (Scott Marshall, with 9). Beyond simply the numbers, Johanna proved herself in the course of this past term by being highly responsive and keeping the Committee on task. She also shepherded our internal process documents through a series of revisions and cleanups, which help ensure our approach to each person before the Committee is fair and consistent.

This process highlighted some issues I’d like to address in the next cycle of selections:

  1. We only changed two members from the 2015 term. That’s less than I feel is ideal, but enough. For the future, two to four members should probably rotate through.
  2. Current members of the Committee have a huge advantage. If the people providing the feedback are satisfied with the job the current members are doing, it’s hard for them to look to others and say “Well, they should do it instead.”
  3. RCs, L4s, and L5s have an advantage, too. This is probably because of more mutual familiarity from the constant communication within these groups. However, I am happy to see that this modest change transitions the Committee from being a majority of RCs, L4s, and L5s to a majority of non-RC L3s.

Who is new?

Sebastian Pękala (L3/RC, Poland)

Sebastian has served as the RC of the Europe Mid-East region since advancing to L3 in 2011. He’s been involved in the process of selecting new RCs, and prior to the creation of the JCC, he was an active voice in deliberations concerning misconduct when the RCs handled them, and I’m glad to see him lend his skills to our system and process now.

Anastacia Tomson (L3, South Africa)

Anastacia’s application alone was one of the more compelling analyses of the JCC’s purpose and process I’ve read. She gets it, and she has some great ideas of how we can do better. I fully expect that her empathy, work ethic, and real world experience are going to set a high bar for the rest of us to match.

Who is leaving?

Cristiana Dionisio (L4 and RC, Italy)

Cri has provided the Committee with the perspective of a seasoned leader. She has many other duties within the Judge Program, though, and we’ll continue to have her input through her involvement in the RCAC and the senior judges, both of which have contributed to helping us get this first term right.

Michael Wiese (L3 and RC, Germany)

Michael has been a voice of measured, reasonable, and concise resolutions. His duties as an RC and a father have led him to focus on those other priorities, while also leaving us with strong recommendations for the kind of judges we should look for in considering JCC applicants.

Feedback Form and Case Activity

Let’s leave you with some statistics from the feedback form and our overall performance in the year. We had about 40 formal cases resolved through our process. We exchanged more than 1,000 messages among Committee members and many more with judges involved in cases, the senior judges, and the RCAC.

We had nearly 300 pieces of feedback submitted through the feedback form. Just over half of them identified some problematic or unhappy experience with a judge, but few were serious enough to result in a formal case and the vast majority were resolved with mentoring and similar communication.

So, it’s been a busy year, and the next one is going to be busy as well, I’m sure. But we’ve hit the ground running, and Johanna has already started us down a path for further improvement and improved integrity. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished in this first term, and hopeful for the future (even, when it comes time for the 2017 term, I plan on rotating out of the Committee fully). We’re in good hands.

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