A sampling of recent judicial ethics advisory opinions

  • When an attorney alleges in a recusal motion that they had a close social relationship with a judge that deteriorated into an adversarial relationship, the judge should fully disclose the nature and extent of that relationship so a determination can be made whether recusal is required in cases in which the attorney appears.  New York Opinion 2021-48.
  • As long as a proceeding brought by a judge on behalf of their minor child is pending, the judge is disqualified from matters involving the adverse party or parties and counsel, subject to remittal.  New York Opinion 2021-23.
  • A judge may accept or reject plea dispositions but must make good faith, individualized determinations regarding the law and its application and may not adopt a broad policy. New York Opinion 2021-46.
  • A judge may direct the court clerk to include with unlawful detainer summonses materials that describe legal and financial assistance available to tenants without giving contemporaneous notice to landlords if the clerks provide notice and a copy to landlords when they file the matter and the materials state that they are not an official court communication and that the court does not endorse the information or require tenants to avail themselves of the resources.  Virginia Opinion 2020-1.
  • Judges may use social media to make statements about the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice, including legislation affecting the judiciary or the legal system, but judges must exercise caution and restraint; should assume the widest possible audience due to lack of control over the dissemination and permanence of online statements; may not engage in prohibited social or political commentary; must carefully evaluate what they intend to post; and must continually monitor reactions to their statements and the social media forums they use.  California Expedited Opinion 2021-42.
  • A judge who views another judge’s profile on Facebook and sees that it has posts regarding the 2020 presidential election, media coverage, and bias; links to articles about politics; internet memes regarding politics; expressions of political opinions; and exchanges about politics must report the other judge to the appropriate authority.  Massachusetts Opinion 2021-1.
  • A judge with personal knowledge that an attorney knowingly assisted a client effectuate a transfer of disputed real estate under false pretenses must report the attorney to the appropriate grievance committee.  New York Opinion 2020-213.
  • A judge may not write and publish an article that analyzes a criminal statute, asserts that the Virginia Supreme Court has incorrectly interpreted that statute, and provides an alternative interpretation.  Virginia Opinion 2020-2.
  • A judge may not serve as a member of a county task force created to address hate crimes if the task force has a broad agenda, including legal, educational, social, and policy reforms, but may assist the task force in other ways, for example, by appearing before, providing information to, or advising it on issues within the judicial branch’s purview and relating to the judge’s experiences and perspective as a judge.  California Expedited Opinion 2021-41.
  • A judge may solicit other judges to join, or renew their memberships in, a local bar association, but may not solicit attorneys or other non-judges.  New York Opinion 2021-34.
  • A judge may not be a member of a bar association task force that will monitor and discuss fiscal and human rights issues faced by residents of Puerto Rico.  New York Opinion 2020-209.
  • A judge may not be a member of a voluntary bar association that endorses a particular candidate for appointment as U.S. Attorney.  Florida Opinion 2021-1.
  • A judge may not serve on the board of directors of a not-for-profit senior housing development that is likely to regularly engage in adversarial litigation in any court.  New York Opinion 2021-34.
  • A judicial officer may serve on the board of an organization even if another member of the board is a partner in a firm that regularly appears before the judicial officer on child support cases.  Florida Opinion 2021-2.
  • A judge may allow a CASA program to post pictures of the judge in court in an adoption proceeding (without identification of the child) and to quote the judge on the beneficial value of the program on, for example, the program’s website, social media, and newsletter.  A judge may not submit written correspondence to the local county board in support of funding for the CASA program.  A judge may attend a CASA program’s annual fund-raising event if the judge pays but may not speak at the event.  A judge may speak at educational sessions for volunteers to the CASA program regarding the court’s expectations of a CASA volunteer.  Nebraska Opinion 2021-1.
  • A judge may notify the media relations staff of the administrative office of the court notice that a charitable organization has begun producing handmade robes as part of its mission to break the cycle of poverty for Baltimore citizens returning from prison.  Maryland Opinion Request 2021-3.
  • A judge who objected orally and in writing to their name being in an email soliciting funds for a charitable cause need not take any further action.  A judge may contribute their personal funds, alone or with a co-judge, to sponsor a family in need and may be identified by name and title in doing so but may not make charitable contributions in the name of the court or permit their court staff to do so.  New York Opinion 2020-190.
  • A judge may not provide a biographical video for use in a not-for-profit organization’s social media campaign if the required release and the overall context create an impression that the video will be used to promote the organization and its gala fund-raising event.  New York Opinion 2021-31.
  • A judge may serve as president of a not-for-profit organization that supports a branch of the U.S. military through education, community outreach, youth programs, and programs and services for military personnel and their families.  New York Opinion 2021-47.
  • A judge may not serve on the advisory board of the Center for Court Innovation, which provides alternatives to detention and incarceration for criminal defendants.  New York Opinion 2020-212.
  • A judge may volunteer as an editor for a not-for-profit poetry journal.  New York Opinion 2021-53.
  • A judge may not serve on a committee investigating sexual harassment claims against a member of a worldwide not-for-profit service organization even if the individual is in another county.  New York Opinion 2021-55.
  • A judge may serve on the search committee for the dean of a law school that is financially supported primarily by New York State or one of its political subdivisions, even if the prior dean’s tenure or departure was controversial.  New York Opinion 2021-70.
  • A judge may write a letter about their personal experience while attending a law school and practicing law in the same community that will be sent to prospective law students by the admissions department of a law school in an effort to further diversity at the law school and in the legal community if the school will not use the letter in general fund-raising efforts.  Washington Opinion 2021-2.
  • A judge who is the parent of a child on the autism spectrum may write an article supporting proposed state legislation prohibiting the use of seclusion and restraints as behavior modification tools for public school students who have autism or are on the autism spectrum but may not be identified as a judge.  Florida Opinion 2021-3.
  • A judge may not participate in an interview with a local news station regarding the experiences of the judge’s first-degree relative at a local nursing home.  New York Opinion 2021-24.
  • A new judge may wind down their prior law practice and collect previously earned legal fees, including billing an assigned counsel program for services and complying with a state administrative agency’s requirements for obtaining payment of previously awarded legal fees.  New York Opinion 2021-13.
  • A judge may not participate in a proposed not-for-profit corporation that would be controlled by the judge’s family and would feature the judge as its sole compensated lecturer with a sliding scale of fees.  New York Opinion 2020-200.
  • A judge may not invest in a publicly traded company the sole business of which is the sale of medicinal and recreational marijuana and other cannabis-related products if the company is operating in the U.S. in violation of federal law.  New York Opinion 2020-208.
  • A judge may attend a sporting event or concert in a luxury box as a guest of their spouse when use of the luxury box seats is a benefit incident to the spouse’s employment as an officer of a company that is unlikely to come before the judge.  New York Opinion 2021-35.
  • A judge may seek appointment to a non-judicial employment position with the executive branch of the federal government but must resign prior to accepting the appointment.  Wyoming Opinion 2021-1.

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