Prosecutors told Oklahoma County District Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure this week they were going to file a judicial complaint against her, sources have told The Oklahoman.
District Attorney David Prater said Thursday he could neither confirm nor deny he has filed a complaint.
"It's improper for me to discuss the issue," Prater said.
The judge declined to comment Thursday.
Under Oklahoma law, investigations into complaints of judicial misconduct are highly secretive — much like grand jury investigations, said Eric Mitts, director of the Oklahoma Council on Judicial Complaints.
Mitts said it would be improper for him to disclose whether a complaint against Bass-LeSure has been made.
Oklahomans received a rare glimpse into what appears to be a judicial misconduct investigation this week when Bass-LeSure complied with a request from prosecutors to step down from presiding over the high-profile murder case of Oklahoma City pharmacist Jerome Jay Ersland.
The decision Tuesday to step down followed closed-door meetings with prosecutors and defense attorneys.
The judge was told a conversation she had with an Edmond gym trainer about a pending drug charge against him had been secretly recorded.
Bass-LeSure told personal trainer Colton Taz Ama, 20, in private that she would not sentence him to prison if he would plead before her to the pending felony drug charge, sources told The Oklahoman.
Bass-LeSure, 43, reportedly handed Ama a written list of three attorneys and told him they knew how to operate in her court. One of the attorneys on the list, Joe Brett Reynolds, is on Ersland's defense team.
That created concern among prosecutors that Reynolds might have some favored status in her courtroom.
Under the Code of Judicial Conduct, judges are not supposed to offer legal advice to people with cases pending before them outside the presence of attorneys involved in the case.
Ama's case has been reassigned to another judge.
Rick Rice, Ama's attorney, told The Oklahoman on Thursday that prosecutors made no promises to his client in exchange for secretly recording Bass-LeSure.
"There was no deal," Rice said.
"The only thing that we're hoping for is just a little bit more leniency when the district attorney makes a recommendation to the judge."
Rice described his client as a "good kid who has never been in trouble before and hasn't been in trouble since."
Inquiries made public only if there's ouster
Anyone can file a complaint against a judge with the Oklahoma Council on Judicial Complaints, Mitts said. The council also can initiate an investigation on its own.
"We will get complaints from people all across the country," he said. "We have gotten complaints in the past from private citizens, county officers, attorneys, judges, other public officials — there's no restriction."
Mitts said investigations by the council vary in length, depending on complexity, but he gave 60 days as an average.
After the council completes an investigation, it files a report with one of five entities.
Usually the report is filed with either the chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court or the attorney general.
The council also has the option of filing a report with the House of Representatives, governor or the Oklahoma Bar Association, he said.
The recipient of the report reviews it and determines independently whether it believes judicial misconduct has occurred, Mitts said.
"If they do believe there has been misconduct sufficient to warrant removal, then they can file a petition with the Court on the Judiciary," he said.
"That court has the authority to remove a judge from office."
If a petition for removal is filed, the public becomes aware of the allegations against a judge because the petition is a public document, he said.
If the Council on Judicial Complaints or one of the reviewing entities believes misconduct has occurred, but it is not sufficient to warrant removal, those entities have the option of filing a report with the chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
The chief justice and Supreme Court don't have the authority to remove a judge but can impose lesser disciplinary measures, Mitts said.
"Their actions are confidential," he said.