A sampling of recent judicial ethics advisory opinions

  • A judge who has taken over a case after another judge’s retirement due to age may initiate ex parte discussions with the retired judge about legal and factual issues in the case without disclosing the communications to the parties or their counsel. New York Opinion 2018-38.
  • Court staff may not conduct ex parte pre-trial dynamic risk assessments to collect information that the judge will use in making decisions in a defendant’s pending case, including setting conditions of release. Washington Opinion 2018-4.
  • A judge may promote diversity in courtroom participation by including a statement in his rules encouraging litigators to give their knowledgeable junior colleagues more speaking and leadership roles in his courtroom. New York Opinion 2018-36.
  • When a judge knows that a lawyer appearing before the judge is a former Facebook friend, disclosure is not presumptively required, but should be considered based on the nature of the former on-line friendship, any other relationship between the judge and the lawyer, and the personal information the judge posted that the lawyer might use to convey the impression of special access to the judge. Massachusetts Letter Opinion 2018-3.
  • A judge must report to the appropriate attorney disciplinary committee an attorney who made an affirmation with numerous allegations about the judge’s conduct that the judge knows to be false. New York Opinion 2018-29.
  • Subject to limitations, a judge may, without compensation, (1) be interviewed for a commercially produced television documentary series concerning a case she prosecuted over a decade ago that has completely terminated; (2) appear occasionally on a commercial news program hosted by her first-degree relative to share family-friendly jokes or riddles; and (3) appear on a commercial news segment in honor of the achievements of individuals who are a particular racial, ethnic, or cultural background or heritage. New York Joint Opinion 17-163/18-03/18-21.
  • Subject to conditions, a judge may make educational presentations to specialty bar associations whose members primarily represent a particular class of litigants on one side in cases. California Formal Opinion 2018-12.
  • A judge may take part in post-screening question and answer sessions and press interviews at film festivals following a documentary of his volunteer work. New York Opinion 2018-48.
  • A judge may be interviewed by a news station about an alternative to incarceration program that uses art as a means of rehabilitation for eligible defendants. New York Opinion 2018-59.
  • A judge’s title may be included in the listing of her name and the heading of her biography on the web-site of a non-profit organization for which she is a director if the listing and heading of other directors’ biographies include comparable titles. New York Opinion 2018-54.
  • A judge may serve on a governmental task force to address the impacts of closing a prison facility when its members represent a broad spectrum of interests and it will plan an orderly transition, not field complaints. New York Opinion 2018-60.
  • A judge may not serve on a statutorily created council that nominates veterans to receive awards recognizing their service. Florida Opinion 2018-17.
  • A judge may serve as a commissioner with the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. Florida Opinion 2018-9.
  • A judge may serve as a judge advocate officer in the reserve of an armed service. Maryland Opinion Request 2018-26.
  • A judge may not voluntarily write a letter commenting on the character and fitness of an applicant for membership to The Florida Bar at any stage in the investigative process of the Board of Bar Examiners. Florida Opinion 2018-10.
  • A judge may not provide a testimonial on behalf of a party in a pending civil lawsuit or a possible criminal prosecution. A judge should testify as a character witness only after being subpoenaed and should discourage a person from issuing a subpoena unless there are unusual circumstances and the demands of justice require the judge to testify.  Maryland Opinion Request 2018-16.
  • A judicial candidate may not answer a political party’s questionnaire that asks the candidate to say yes or no to a specific pledge or promise, does not acknowledge a judge’s obligation to decide all cases fairly and impartially and in accordance with governing law, and does not invite candidates to assert any caveats when responding. The candidate may, if she wishes, ask the party to circulate a questionnaire specifically tailored to judicial candidates.  New York Opinion 2018-95.

 

 

 

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