A sampling of recent judicial ethics advisory opinions

  • In an order for protection proceeding, a judge may, without advance notice to the parties, access electronic court records to determine whether there are orders in other cases involving the petitioner or respondent that could affect the decision, but, after issuing the ex parte order, the judge should give the parties an opportunity to be heard on the propriety of taking judicial notice of a previous order. Minnesota Advisory Opinion 2016-2.
  • If only pro se parties are involved, a judge may question a witness regarding the statutory factors in an uncontested divorce or question a witness in a child custody matter regarding the factors necessary to the determination of the best interests of the child. North Carolina Advisory Opinion 2016-1.
  • A supreme court justice is not disqualified from an appeal of a district court decision because a relative within the third degree presided over an interim review by the court of appeals, but disclosure of the relationship on the record is prudent and appropriate. Nevada Advisory Opinion JE2016-4.
  • Except when a user transmits video or audio or a link to videotaped testimony, the use of Twitter, microblogging, or other electronic means of instant communication is not broadcasting for purposes of the rule regarding broadcasting from the courtroom, but a judge may impose reasonable restrictions on how and when electronic communication tools may be used during courtroom proceedings. Indiana Advisory Opinion 1-2017.
  • A court should not place artwork for sale in the courthouse or post advertisements for local restaurants or other vendors. South Carolina Advisory Opinion 2-2017.
  • A judge may not attend a free training seminar on landlord/tenant law that is sponsored and taught by attorneys who almost exclusively represent landlords in eviction cases and that is designed for judges who regularly hear eviction cases. Arizona Advisory Opinion 2016-4.
  • A judge who sometimes presides in criminal cases involving Native American defendants may not attend a seminar on “Human Trafficking in Indian Country” co-sponsored by the Department of Justice and the FBI that will focus on effective prosecution. New York Advisory Opinion 2017-4.
  • A judge may apply to the governor for a seat on the constitution revision commission and, if appointed, serve as a gubernatorial appointee. Florida Advisory Opinion 2016-19.
  • A judicial officer may administer the oath of office at a ceremony to swear in a public official, including a newly elected district attorney. California Oral Advice Summary 2016-18.
  • A judicial officer may serve on the board of a non-profit entity that is building an integrated network of services and advocating for policies that improve the lives of children and their families even if the organization monitors legislation and engages in child-related advocacy and legislative efforts. Colorado Advisory Opinion 2016-2.
  • A circuit court judge may not be a member of a domestic violence council that discusses and engages in legislative reform efforts related to the prevention, treatment, and punishment of domestic violence and stalking. Wyoming Advisory Opinion 2016-4.
  • A judge may publicly advocate for a change in the penal law that would create a new standard in a particular class of criminal cases and write to executive and legislative bodies and/or officials and other potentially interested parties; the judge need not inform local prosecutors or defense counsel of these activities. New York Advisory Opinion 2016-135.
  • A county magistrates’ association may, as requested by the bar association and the county executive, comment on the bar association’s proposed assigned counsel plan before it is implemented by the county. New York Advisory Opinion 2016-145.
  • A judge may circulate a petition to force a referendum on a proposed sale of a parcel of land owned by the local school district. New York Advisory Opinion 2016-169.
  • A judge may establish a mentoring program to promote diversity in the judiciary that will pair sitting or retired judges with attorneys who wish to seek judicial office. The mentor judge may comment on an attorney-protégé’s application to a judicial screening panel and may share her experience in the elective or appointive process.  The mentor judge may not contact political party leaders or others on the protégé’s behalf, must avoid any perception of involvement in impermissible political activity both before and after the protégé publicly declares his candidacy for election, and must not advise her protégé on campaign strategy, campaign literature, or other outreach to voters or political leaders.  New York Advisory Opinion 2016-151.
  • A judge may not serve on a bar association committee hosting a golf tournament that is raising funds for the Guardian Ad Litem Foundation, which is a litigant in every dependency case that comes before the judge, but may attend the event and assist with organizational, non-fund-raising tasks such as setting up sponsor signs and the silent auction, serving food and beverages, and taking pictures. Florida Advisory Opinion 2016-20.
  • A judge whose minor child is participating in a charitable fund-raiser may personally solicit funds from family members and fellow judges not subject to his supervision, provided he does not use or invoke his judicial title or status in doing so, but may not personally solicit funds from friends or neighbors. A judge may, in his capacity as a parent, accompany his minor child as the child solicits funds from friends or neighbors, but may not otherwise assist or participate in the solicitation.  New York Advisory Opinion 2016-153.
  • A judge may participate as a player in a “Casino Night” fund-raiser at her child’s pre-school if the event is lawful. New York Advisory Opinion 2016-158.
  • A judge may be a member of an all-female volunteer emergency medical technician service that responds to calls from women in a particular faith community and provides limited free health care services in the community but may not serve as director if that role requires her to personally engage in fund-raising and/or recruitment. New York Advisory Opinion 2016-179.
  • A judge may not testify as a character witness in a disbarred attorney’s reinstatement proceeding. Massachusetts Advisory Letter Opinion 2016-13.
  • A judge may teach a fitness class for a not-for-profit educational, charitable, or civic organization and accept the standard per-session compensation. New York Advisory Opinion 2016-117.
  • A judge may attend a free, non-partisan “meet the candidates” event, organized by a non-political community residents’ association when all candidates for a particular office will attend, speak, and answer questions. New York Advisory Opinion 2016-149.


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