A sampling of recent judicial ethics advisory opinions

  • For purposes of the exception to the prohibition on ex parte communications, a mediator is not court staff or a court official whose role is to assist the judge in adjudicative responsibilities.  A judge who has referred a case to alternative dispute resolution may not discuss concerns about the case and the parties’ relative bargaining positions with the mediator outside the presence of the parties.  After mediation, the mediator may report to the judge whether the mediator has been successful but may not disclose the terms of the settlement, except as the parties may agree or as allowed by the mediation procedures act.  New Mexico Opinion 2021-3.
  • A judge may not perform a simulated public marriage ceremony for a couple who are keeping private that they already got married in an earlier private ceremony during the pandemic. Maryland Opinion Request 2021-10.
  • Judges may serve on the state bar’s Access to Justice Commission and the statutorily-created Child Welfare Council. California Expedited Opinion 2021-43.
  • A judge may not serve on the board of trustees of a city’s arts council. Utah Informal Opinion 2021-2.
  • A judge may serve as a member of the judiciary board of a church, which interprets policy and practice and is the ultimate authority on church constitutional and ecclesiastical interpretation. Virginia Opinion 2021-1.
  • A judge may serve on the board of directors of a local non-profit entity that provides mediation services to litigants who may come before the judge’s court. Maryland Opinion Request 2021-8.
  • A judge who sometimes decides ex parte applications for search warrants directed at a particular social media company may not give an in-house address to the company’s employees about how legal process is authorized, the use and purpose of the company’s records in legal proceedings, and the importance of accuracy and vigilance in response to legal process. New York Opinion 2021-65.
  • A judge may participate, without compensation, in a commercially produced documentary comparing judicial systems around the world as long as they do not create an appearance that they are an “active participant” in the business that is producing the film and do not promote the program to the public at large. New York Opinion 2021-67.
  • A judge may publish through a commercial publisher a legal suspense novel set in both real and fictional Massachusetts locations and engage in promotional activities, including maintaining a website, building a mailing list, conducting virtual book club events or readings, attending book signings, and maintaining profiles on social media websites, as long the promotional activities do not invoke the prestige of the judicial office or otherwise violate the code, taking particular care when promotional activities use social media. A judge may not use judicial email or court mailing lists to promote sales of their novel. A judge should not directly sell or be involved in financial transactions for the sale of copies of their novel; for example, at a book signing, the financial transactions for the sale should be handled by someone other than the judge. A judge should not participate in promotional activities at a courthouse or any other location that would lend the prestige of judicial office to efforts to sell the judge’s novel. When a book has appeal to a wider audience, a judge should not target lawyers in efforts to promote the book. A judge may be identified as a judge or by title in biographical materials that contain only factual statements, including on the book jacket, as long as their position is not unnecessarily emphasized or exploited. At book-signing events and in public discussion of their book, a judge may identify as a judge in response to questions. A judge should only state their judicial position in an incidental way, without relating their position to the novel. Massachusetts Letter Opinion 2021-2.
  • A judge may write a chapter of a book about reforms in child welfare in the public and not-for-profit sectors. New York Opinion 2021-71.
  • A judge may speak at a bar association’s fund-raising event to introduce a video clip highlighting the bar association’s “Women’s History Project” initiative even though others will solicit funds during the event, provided that they do not personally solicit funds. New York Opinion 2021-75.
  • A judge who belongs to a national judicial association may vote on a resolution that would prohibit the association from holding conferences in jurisdictions where protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer individuals have been repealed or where discriminatory LGBTQ laws have been enacted and is not required to resign from the association if the resolution passes. New York Opinion 2021-81.
  • A judge may serve on a committee for a national judicial association’s local chapter that provides support and assistance to women in prison as they prepare for their transition back into the community. New York Opinion 2021-81.
  • A judge cannot nominate the elected prosecutor who is currently running for re-election for the West Virginia State Bar Citizen Soldier Awards. West Virginia Opinion 2020-6.
  • A judge who is a poet by avocation may share their poetry at free online creative arts panels organized by a not-for-profit museum and a state university and accept an honorarium that is offered to all participating poets and panelists. New York Opinion 2021-52.
  • A judge may not allow their likeness to be used to create a non-fungible token (NFT) that would be auctioned off by a for-profit organization that would donate part of the funds to legal aid societies and other organizations that promote greater access to justice. Tennessee Opinion 2021-1.
  • A judge-elect must immediately resign as a bail bondsman. West Virginia Opinion 2020-20.
  • A judge-elect may continue to serve as a member of the city council until they take the oath of office as a judge but not after. West Virginia Opinion 2020-21.
  • A magistrate cannot simultaneously serve as an EMT or fire fighter. West Virginia Opinion 2020-28.
  • A judge may provide limited law-related advice to a family member, similar to the kinds of information that a judge can provide a self-represented party in a hearing, including statements of law, explanations of court procedures and court rules, directions to community resources for finding a lawyer, information about the process for securing witnesses, and guidance about elements of proof or other legal requirements. A judge may provide a family member with advice relating to a matter in which the judge is also personally involved when the judge is acting in their own personal interest or in a representative capacity permitted under the code. California Formal Opinion 2021-17.
  • A judge may prepare a deed for a home that they are selling. West Virginia Opinion 2020-15.
  • A judge may not organize a virtual fashion show for judges that would showcase robes designed to suit the height, body shape, and style of women judges; would include a display by an artist who makes and sells bracelets in tribute to a trail-blazing female jurist; and would display pins and statement/bib necklaces from judges’ collections and advise where the items were bought or can be purchased. New York Opinion 2021-73.
  • A judge may host a make-up party for family members and close personal friends who are not likely to come before the judge and receive credit/percentage off the purchase of an item as a reward. West Virginia Opinion 2020-19.
  • A district court commissioner may not obtain and use medical marijuana. Maryland Opinion Request 2021-6.
  • A judge may reach out to individuals in their community to discuss the judge’s qualifications and interest in appointive judicial office but may not compensate those individuals for their time or assistance. New York Opinion 2021-64.
  • A judge whose spouse is running for governor may attend a fund-raiser on their behalf but only if it is held outside the marital home; cannot appear in a parade with the spouse; and cannot introduce them or speak about them at campaign events. The judge’s name and photograph may appear in their spouses’ campaign literature or other official campaign photographs if they are not identified as a judge. West Virginia Opinion 2019-22.
  • A judge may not sign a letter opposing the impeachment of the President of the United States. West Virginia Opinion 2020-5.
  • Subject to generally applicable limitations on campaign speech and conduct, a judicial candidate may permit their campaign committee to establish a Twitter account to keep voters and community leaders informed about events, to direct them to the campaign website, and to “follow” the candidate’s opponent and/or other candidates. New York Opinion 2021-40.
  • A judge must resign from judicial office if they authorize or knowingly permit their name to appear on a publicly circulated nominating petition as a candidate for a non-judicial office. New York Opinion 2021-50.

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