A sampling of recent judicial ethics advisory opinions

  • A judge who has applied for and/or is negotiating for post-judicial employment must disqualify from any matter in which the prospective employer appears; that disqualification cannot be waived.  A judge should not negotiate with a potential employer if such negotiations would lead to frequent disqualification.  If a negotiation does not result in employment, the judge should continue to recuse for a reasonable period, the length of which will depend on whether the judge developed a personal bias or prejudice during the negotiations and on factors such as how long the negotiations took, the notoriety of the negotiations, and whether the break-off of the negotiations was amicable.  Arizona Opinion 2022-1.
  • A judge who previously served on a town’s zoning board is disqualified from all matters that were pending before the board during their tenure but may preside over other matters involving the board.  New York Opinion 2022-51.
  • A judge is not disqualified because an attorney in a matter is their neighbor and had, in that capacity, supported a non-controversial residential zoning variance sought by the judge.  New York Opinion 2022-42.
  • A presiding judge may participate in an informal task force that will look at issues of racial bias in their community if their involvement can be limited to matters regarding the court system and the administration of justice and if the task force initiatives will not involve judicial proceedings that would ordinarily come before the court.  A family law commissioner may participate in a domestic violence task force created by the court that includes the district attorney’s office, the public defender’s office, county counsel, probation, and local law enforcement agencies.  A judge may serve on the executive committee of a city task force about reducing youth and gang violence that has members from a large cross-section of the community, including community leaders, educators, health workers, law enforcement, and youth programs.  A judge may serve on a mayor’s gang task force that will allow all of the stakeholders in the criminal justice system, including law enforcement, prosecutors, members of the defense bar, the probation department and representatives from community-based gang intervention programs, to exchange ideas and offer suggestions.  A judge may not serve on a mayor’s gang task force if it is oriented to intervention, prevention, and enforcement and is made up of political representatives, representatives from the district attorney’s office, the police department, schools, and other community leaders but does not include members of the defense bar.  A judge who has a criminal law assignment may not join a state task force called the “Sober Driving Coalition” comprised of members of the highway patrol, local law enforcement, and probation.  California Judges Association Formal Opinion 80 (2022).
  • An administrative judge may not authorize a court-sponsored committee or commission to file an amicus curiae brief supporting the court system’s legislative agenda.  New York Opinion 2022-37.
  • In a letter on judicial stationery, a judge may ask the county clerk to authenticate any lien/judgment against the judge prior to recording it because a self-identified “sovereign citizen” is apparently retaliating against the judge.  New York Opinion 2022-46.
  • A judicial officer may review legal education books in a legal publication when the primary purpose is educational discourse related to the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice.  A judicial officer may not provide an endorsement referencing their title to be used on the cover of a book written by others because the primary purpose of such an endorsement is to market or promote the book.  California Opinion 2022-48.
  • A judicial official may write an occasional column for an online newspaper to educate the public on how the legal system works, how judges make decisions, and the law generally if the content will be apolitical and uncontroversial and the paper is not-for-profit and non-partisan.  Connecticut Informal Opinion 2022-04.
  • A judicial officer may be a member of a judicial organization that has resolved not to hold conferences and other activities in states that discriminate against members of the LGBTQ+ community and may remain a member of a national organization that does not discriminate against members of the LGBTQ+ community but that conducts conferences in states that have enacted laws that discriminate.  California Judges Association Formal Opinion 79 (2022).
  • A judge may serve as a trustee for a public community college if they volunteered or were appointed as a trustee, but they may not run for the office even if the position is apolitical or nonpartisan.  Colorado Opinion 2022-3.
  • A judge may chair the board of directors of a local YMCA, and their name and position may be listed with other board members on the organization’s website and fund-raising invitations, unless the formatting creates the impression that the directors, collectively and/or individually, are personally soliciting funds.  New York Opinion 2022-25.
  • A judge may serve as master of ceremonies at a retirement picnic for the minister of their house of worship if the event is not a fund-raiser even if the congregants organizing the event hope to defray the costs by, for example, asking for donations online and/or at the function and selling advertisements for a program that will be distributed at the picnic.  New York Opinion 2022-57.
  • A judge may not perform in a rock band’s annual benefit concert even if their name and judicial status will be omitted from advertisements and may not sell concert tickets to friends, but may sell to family members.  New York Opinion 2022-79.
  • Subject to generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct, a judge may speak at a free community celebration of Pride month if the event is not a fund-raiser and may permit the organization to use the judge’s photo and title in social media promotions.  New York Opinion 2022-75.

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