A sample of recent judicial ethics advisory opinions  

  • A judge may not step down from the bench and shake a criminal defendant’s hand in front of potential jurors to emphasize that the defendant is presumed not guilty before trial.  Utah Informal Opinion 2019-3.
  • A judge may not facilitate a traffic ticket plea reduction program instituted by the district attorney’s office that would interfere with the court’s exercise of judicial review and discretion.  New York Opinion 2019-145.
  • A new judge is required to disqualify from cases involving an attorney who is a former employee, protégé, and intern and was manager for her election campaign.  Washington Opinion 2020-3.
  • A town justice may not write the town board expressing her personal view that a new local law was poorly drafted and offering proposed amendments.  New York Opinion 2019-137.
  • A judge may participate in a panel discussion on human trafficking at an event sponsored by a non-profit organization that is not a fund-raiser.  Florida Opinion 2020-3.
  • A judge may not accept an invitation to speak to law enforcement officials about honesty and integrity in investigations and testimony.  Utah Informal Opinion 2019-2.
  • A judge may not give a media interview about a rule to show cause he issued against a state agency that has a significant case backlog.  West Virginia Opinion 2019-16.
  • A judge may not discuss cold cases from other states on a nationally broadcast podcast hosted by Nancy Grace.  West Virginia Opinion 2019-21.
  • A judge may participate in an academic study on judicial diversity in state courts but must abide by generally applicable limitations on speech and conduct.  New York Opinion 2019-115.
  • A judge may solicit other judges in her district for a “Wellness Fund” to be used by the local Wellness Committee to fund social events for judges and employees to promote workplace collegiality and a positive work environment if she and other judges on the committee do not have any supervisory or appellate authority over the solicited judges.  New York Opinion 2019-108.
  • With qualifications, judges may write reviews on crowd-sourced sites, such as Yelp, and use the “like” function on a social networking site.  California Judges Association Formal Opinion 78 (2020).
  • A judge may publish her dissertation for her doctoral degree in judicial studies as a book and receive compensation for sales of the book.  Florida Opinion 2020-1.
  • A judge should not attend an event that will honor individuals who support the mission of a civic organization “by making positive changes in the lives of abused, neglected and disadvantaged youth in or aging out of foster care” when the price of the tickets and availability of advertisement space indicate that the event has a fund-raising component.  Florida Opinion 2020-2.
  • With conditions, a judge may serve as the chair of a strategic planning committee for the private not-for-profit school that his children attend.  New York Opinion 2019-86.
  • A judge may serve on the board of the Colorado Women’s Leadership Foundation, which encourages corporations and non-profit organizations to fill board positions with qualified women.  Colorado Opinion 2020-1.
  • A judge may not serve as a board member or non-legal advisor of a non-profit organization that receives court appointments and provides guardianship services and attorney representation.  New York Opinion 2019-122.
  • A judge may serve on the board of a non-profit entity that provides occupational therapy activities such as art classes and workshops to the disabled if it does not receive referrals from the judge’s court or regularly engage in litigation in any court.  New York Opinion 2019-131.
  • A new judge may continue to serve as president of the board of a non-profit organization he established while a lawyer but cannot be the signatory for any legal documents such as contracts and rental agreements, cannot be on the checking account, cannot engage in any negotiation with prospective renters/leaseholders of the organization’s building, cannot fund-raise for the organization, and cannot be involved in any press events publicizing donations.  West Virginia Opinion 2019-12.
  • A judge may serve as president of a bar foundation that focuses on the management and distribution of grants for local legal services programs.  New York Opinion 2019-141.
  • A judge may serve as an ex officio member of a charitable organization’s advisory group about funding criminal justice reform initiatives in the state.  West Virginia Opinion 2019-27.
  • A magistrate may serve on a church disciplinary committee.  South Carolina Opinion 3-2020.
  • A judge may not serve as an advisor to the U.S. President on disability programs and services or on an advisory committee to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  A  judge may, subject to certain limitations, meet with federal executive branch officials on her own behalf to discuss her experiences as a disabled individual.  New York Opinion 2019-146.
  • Court webpages may list the names of the judges authorized to perform wedding ceremonies and their phone number but should inform the public that judges may be available to perform wedding ceremonies during court hours when there is no fee and should not highlight special services that individual judges may provide (for example, wedding ceremonies in languages other than English or availability to “officiate LGBTQ weddings”).  A judge should not maintain a webpage that would allow the public to schedule wedding ceremonies with just that judge for a fee outside of court hours.  Judges may wear their robes on their court’s wedding webpage, but a judge may not wear a robe on a webpage not affiliated with the court that promotes her availability to perform weddings for a fee.  Washington Opinion 2020-1.
  • A judicial officer may not offer a free weekly drop-in yoga class at the courthouse.  Washington Opinion 2020-2.
  • A new magistrate may continue to teach NRA handgun safety classes.  West Virginia Opinion 2019-14.
  • A magistrate may hold a yard sale to sell his own items for personal gain.  West Virginia Opinion 2019-11.
  • A full-time judge may not serve as a bankruptcy trustee.  Utah Informal Opinion 2019-1.
  • A judge may not retain an ownership interest in property with his former law partners when the firm and other law firms are tenants on the property.  Maryland Opinion Request 2019-35.
  • A judge may make the political party declaration required by statute to vote in the presidential primary.  Washington Opinion 2020-4.
  • A judge whose wife is running for governor may attend fund-raisers on her behalf outside the marital home, but may not appear in a parade with her or introduce her or speak about her at campaign events; the judge’s name and photograph may appear in his wife’s campaign literature or other campaign photograph as long as he is not identified a judge.  West Virginia Opinion 2019-22.
  • A judicial candidate may not characterize an opponent’s prior removal from the ballot when his petitions were invalidated as an inability to “follow the law” and/or a “flagrant disregard for the law” or ask voters to imagine several “disastrous outcomes in serious matters” if the opponent were elected and then “failed to follow the law.”  New York Opinion 2019-112.

 

 

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