New issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter

The spring issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter has been published and can be downloaded for free on the Center for Judicial Ethics web-site.  The issue has articles on wedding fees, recent cases on failing to speak up, and misrepresentations about incumbency in judicial election campaigns, in addition to summaries of over 20 recent judicial ethics advisory opinions.

The article on wedding fees notes that some states prohibit judges from personally accepting all fees for solemnizing marriages, while others only prohibit fees for ceremonies performed during normal court hours.  The relevant provisions are replicated in boxes accompanying the article.

“What judges say or write—intemperate comments, ex parte conversations, gratuitous references to the judicial office, and, increasingly, injudicious social media posts, for example—is a frequent basis for judicial discipline,” the next articles explains.  But, its adds, several recent cases demonstrate that “failing to say something can also lead to a finding of judicial misconduct.”  The article then discusses cases in which judges were sanctioned for failing to disclose their affair or take other appropriate action, failing to communicate when or even if she would return to the courtroom, failing to make appropriate inquiries before disbursing funds from a trust, and failing to inform an ex-wife of a retirement that would entitle her to benefits under their dissolution agreement.

The final article explains:

Whether a judicial candidate may use the title “judge” in a campaign has been addressed numerous times, suggesting incumbency gives an elective edge or at least that judicial candidates perceive such an advantage.  The person currently occupying the bench that is the subject of an election can use the title “judge” in campaign literature. . . .  Caselaw and advisory opinions are clear, however, that the incumbent is the only candidate who can call himself or herself “judge,” at least without clarification, and that other candidates (including former judges and judges in other positions) must make it clear when they are not the incumbent.

The article then discusses relevant advisory opinions and caselaw on the use of the title “judge,” robes, and the term “re-election” in campaign materials.

All past issues of the Reporter are available on-line as free downloads on the Center for Judicial Ethics web-site.  You can sign up to receive notice when a new issue is available and for other National Center for State Courts newsletters.  There is also an index of Reporter articles.

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