A sampling of recent judicial ethics advisory opinions

  • A judge may invite attorneys to e-mail motion papers directly to him, but should require that opposing counsel be copied on the e-mail. New York Opinion 2019-3.
  • A judge may not, to expedite proceedings, e-mail government agencies to obtain records necessary to litigate pending claims but must leave it to the litigants to subpoena the records. New York Opinion 2019-3.
  • A judge may consult ex parte about cases before her with judges in courts outside the state court system, including tribal courts, but should make reasonable efforts to preserve confidentiality. New York Opinion 2019-8.
  • A judge who resigned from the board of a public benefit corporation must recuse himself, subject to remittal, from all matters on which he was briefed or involved as a board member but may preside in other matters involving the entity. New York Opinion 2019-1.
  • In fulfilling a judge’s statutory duty to report suspected child abuse, abandonment, or neglect, a judge is not required to use the form provided by the Department of Children and Families and may not independently investigate the facts to provide a more detailed report. Florida Opinion 2019-13.
  • A judge may not suggest or recommend that an inmate apply to the governor’s office of clemency. New York Opinion 2019-21.
  • A magistrate may not serve on a committee that reviews domestic violence fatalities. South Carolina Opinion 5-2019.
  • A judge who presides over juvenile and person-in-need-of-supervision cases may participate in a non-partisan initiative by legislators and schools to create an anti-bullying program in schools. New York Opinion 2019-14.
  • A judge may testify before the legislature on the compensation rate for criminal defense representation for the indigent when the public defender’s office contracts cases to private counsel. A judge should not propose or advocate for specific legislation or a specific policy or work with independent groups or agencies advocating for specific legislation or a specific policy.  Wisconsin Opinion 2019-1.
  • By writing to or in meetings with the executive branch and legislators, a judicial association and its members may support or oppose a funding increase for the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. New York Opinion 2018-185.
  • A judge should not wear his judicial robe to the funeral service of another judge if he is not attending the service in his official capacity. Virginia Opinion 2019-1.
  • A judge may donate baked goods that will be auctioned off to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity as long nothing reveals that the items were donated by a judge but may not serve as the auctioneer and get on stage to encourage bids. Florida Opinion 2019-15.
  • A judge who is president of a religious organization may not directly solicit donations to the organization or sell tickets to its fund-raisers except to other judges over whom she does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority. The judge may urge members to attend organization functions that are not fund-raisers and may announce fund-raisers to members without urging attendance.  The judge may not thank donors at fund-raisers or at receptions for major donors.  The judge may meet with potential new members to solicit membership as long as the solicitation cannot reasonably be perceived as coercive, membership is not essentially a fund-raising mechanism, and the potential new members and people with whom they are affiliated are not likely to appear before the judge’s court.  Florida Opinion 2019-10.
  • A judge may serve on a committee for her house of worship that will coordinate with architects regarding proposed structural improvements, oversee expenditures, and raise funds, and the judge may act as an “internal coordinator” for the committee, planning fund-raising, soliciting other congregation members to serve on the committee, scheduling and notifying committee members of meeting details, and asking committee members to solicit donations as long as the judge does not personally solicit funds, does not permit her name or the prestige of judicial office to be used for fund-raising, and does not appear as the author, signatory, or spokesperson in fund-raising materials. If the judge donates to the project, her name and donation amount may be published with other donors, without mention of the judge’s committee role.  New York Opinion 2019-18.
  • A judge may not individually help his fellow congregants complete their health care directives but may give a general lecture on the subject. New York Opinion 2019-29.
  • A judge may not accept an “outstanding alumni” award from a college alumni foundation at a ceremony primarily intended to raise funds for the foundation. Florida Opinion 2019-11.
  • A judge may not serve on the board of directors of a not-for-profit credit union that regularly appears in adversary proceedings. New York Opinion 2019-36.
  • A judge may not continue to serve as an officer or director of a not-for-profit land trust after it becomes involved in a controversial, contested agency proceeding regarding plans to build power-generation facilities adjacent to conserved land, but may remain a member if she does not comment on the proceedings or otherwise publicly associate herself with the trust’s positions on matters of public controversy, for example, by appearing at proceedings on its behalf. New York Opinion 2019-30.
  • A judge may not volunteer as an escort for individuals visiting an abortion clinic that is the subject of a pro-life protest if the judge does not know the individual but may accompany a family member or friend to any medical appointment regardless whether the procedure is the subject of public controversy. New York Opinion 2019-29.
  • A judge may not be a founder or officer of a business that will broker sales of state-licensed marijuana dispensaries in another state but may be a minority shareholder in the business as a passive investor with no other role. New York Opinion 2018-169.
  • A part-time lawyer judge may provide legal services to a state-approved medical marijuana corporation. New York Opinion 2018-163.
  • A judge may take a multi-week improvisational comedy class from a for-profit entity but may not perform in the graduation show for which there is an admission fee even if his participation is not advertised. A judge may not perform a first-person story about his childhood or cultural background at a bar if there is a suggested donation and/or drink minimum or at a show produced by an individual selling tickets even if he performs anonymously and/or uses a pseudonym.  A judge may participate in a storytelling show produced by a not-for-profit entity, if the event is not a fund-raiser and his position is not used for financial gain or promotion, and may participate in a podcast that is non-commercial and is not sponsored by a law firm or other for-profit entity.  New York Opinion 2019-9.
  • Without reference to her judicial office, a judge may permit her spouse to include factual information about the judge’s personal story in his campaign literature and may be identified as the candidate’s spouse in a family photograph and/or video. New York Opinion 2018-174.

 

 

 

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