A sampling of recent judicial ethics advisory opinions

  • Even before an evidentiary hearing on the admissibility of their spouse’s testimony, a judge must disqualify from a capital case if their spouse, a former public defender, is likely to be called as a material witness based on the totality of the circumstances, for example, the threshold for admissibility of evidence during the sentencing phase of a capital case, defense counsel’s level of motivation to compel the spouse’s testimony, and the likelihood of defense counsel’s success in admitting the spouse’s documents and testimony. California Expedited Opinion 2022-46.
  • A judge who is married to the city chief of police is disqualified from any case in which a subordinate of their spouse is likely to be a material witness. Kentucky Opinion JE-129 (2021).
  • A judge may respond to the county comptroller’s survey concerning the county’s assigned counsel program, subject to generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct. New York Opinion 2021-167.
  • If the judge comports with the dignity of judicial office and eschews personal attacks on government officials, a judge may communicate their opposition to the position of court administrators that the judge will be “unfit for service” if they do not comply with the court system’s vaccination policies. New York Opinion 2022-2.
  • A member of the county commission who has been nominated to a seat on the court of appeals must resign from the commission just prior to taking the oath of office as judge and must disqualify themself from any case involving the commission or any of its subsidiaries while they served as a commissioner. West Virginia Opinion 2022-1.
  • An attorney nominated to be a judge must immediately resign as a member of the bar commission that makes recommendations to the governor about filling judicial vacancies but may continue to serve as president of the State Bar until shortly before being sworn in as a judge or until their term as president ends, whichever is sooner. After becoming a judge, the judge cannot serve as past president of the State Bar. West Virginia Opinion 2022-4.
  • A judge may run for and serve on the board of a homeowners association, send an introductory email to other association members prior to the election with their résumé if the email does not include their title and even if the résumé would include their current position, may participate in a meet-and-greet candidates event, and may acknowledge their employment as a municipal judge (with dates of employment if asked), but must refrain from offering other details. South Carolina Opinion 3-2022.
  • A judge who completed a mediation skills program at a law school’s mediation clinic may permit the clinic to post their comments about the course on the clinic’s Instagram account for general advertising and recruitment efforts, provided the judge is satisfied their name, words, and image will not be used for fundraising. New York Opinion 2021-170.
  • A judge may not accept a lawyer’s offer to represent the judge on a discounted or pro bono basis before the Judicial Standards Commission. New Mexico Opinion 2021-7.
  • A judge whose spouse is running for elected office may not attend campaign events, but their picture may be included in their spouse’s campaign materials and website as long as their title or office is not mentioned, there are no visual elements identifying them as a judge, and no explicit endorsement is featured. Maryland Opinion Request 2022-1.
  • An incumbent judge may appear in a robe in a campaign photograph; may utilize in their campaign a photograph that was not created for campaign purposes and cannot be reasonably interpreted to contain any misrepresentations regarding the judge; and may use a photograph that includes other judges at a public event if the photograph itself and the context, cropping, caption, and other text that accompany it do not suggest or imply any endorsement by the other judges. Illinois Opinion 2021-4.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s