A sampling of recent judicial ethics advisory opinions

  • A judge may not appoint their personal financial manager to a fiduciary position. New York Opinion 2022-59.
  • A judge who volunteers as a coach for a youth sports team is not required to disqualify when an attorney whose child is on the team appears in a case unless there are other facts that would cause a person to doubt their ability to be impartial, but the judge must disclose on the record information reasonably relevant to their decision not to disqualify. California Formal Opinion 2022-19.
  • A judge may not perform work on an amicus brief that will be filed by the bar association in a high-profile federal appeal. New York Opinion 2022-91.
  • To determine whether to report a gift and, if so, what value to list, a judge should use reasonable diligence to determine its value, for example, asking a bar association the value of a commissioned portrait and crystal gavel given to the judge or contacting an establishment that sells the item or similar items. Florida Opinion 2022-6.
  • A judge who is considering leaving judicial service may apply for jobs while still holding office, but if the judge applies for employment with a party or a law firm appearing before the judge, recusal will likely be necessary. If the judge accepts employment with a law firm, the judge may not authorize the firm to advertise their anticipated post-judicial employment at the firm. Florida Opinion 2022-7.
  • A judge may not serve on a state education department committee that will address how local school districts report student/school-related conduct, communication, and disciplinary matters to the department. Florida Opinion 2022-10.
  • A judge may participate in a group organized by the governor’s office and the Department of Motor Vehicles to propose simpler language and more logical organization for the traffic laws if the membership is balanced with subject experts from relevant state agencies, non-profit organizations, prosecutors, and defense counsel. The judge may be reimbursed for travel and lodging expenses reasonably incurred for their participation but may not be compensated. New York Opinion 2022-89.
  • A judge may write a children’s book about what judges do and what it takes to become a judge, emphasizing that children who are members of minority groups can grow up to become judges. As long as they do not comment on pending cases or legal controversies or give legal advice, and the activities do not conflict with their professional schedule, the judge (1) may give public readings of the book at schools, community centers, and similar institutions, but may not wear a judge’s robe when doing so, (2) may give public readings in conjunction with a “lawyers for literacy” program but may not solicit lawyers to purchase the book or solicit invitations to such events, and (3) may promote the book through media outlets such as radio and be identified as a sitting judge and discuss the role of a judge. Florida Opinion 2022-9.
  • A judge may give a historical presentation to a church on a U.S. Supreme Court decision about abortion and discuss the majority, concurring, and dissenting opinions on the possible ramifications of the case, but may not offer any personal views. Maryland Opinion Request 2022-24.
  • A judge may create and fully fund scholarships at their former elementary school and college. A judge may volunteer with foster youth through a city agency unless their protégé is or becomes involved in court proceedings. New York Opinion 2022-55.
  • A judge may serve on the steering committee of a not-for-profit cultural/religious organization associated with a college and donate at least $1,000 a year as required; may permit their name to be listed on the organization’s regular letterhead, including the title “Honorable,” even if the letterhead might be used for fund-raising events if comparable designations are listed for other committee member; and may permit their name to be listed on an invitation to a fund-raiser unless the formatting reasonably creates an impression that the committee members collectively and/or the judge individually are personally soliciting funds or personally inviting people to the fund-raiser. New York Opinion 2022-73.
  • A judge must object in writing to the use of their name on a flyer announcing a not-for-profit civic organization’s fund-raiser and advise the organization to remove or omit their name from any further promotions. After objecting, the judge may attend the event, be recognized as one of the inductees during the ceremony, and buy a table for friends and family to attend. New York Opinion 2022-84.
  • A judge makes referrals to a not-for-profit entity while presiding in a problem-solving court may not accept complimentary tickets to the entity’s lavish fund-raising gala, but may purchase tickets and attend the event. New York Opinion 2022-72.
  • The judge members of a bench-bar committee should not have their names on advertisements for CLE programs held by the committee to raise funds for charitable organizations, should not be involved in the selection of the charities that will receive the donations, and should not hand a check to the charities. West Virginia Opinion 2022-23.
  • A judge may meet with a commercial television producer and their creative team to discuss a possible television show involving the criminal justice system even if the meeting could result in an employment offer or business opportunity that the judge cannot begin without resigning. New York Opinion 2022-99.
  • A judge may not appear as a judge on a cable TV show similar to Judge Judy. West Virginia Opinion 2022-21.
  • A new judge may submit vouchers for legal fees earned for work performed as assigned counsel prior to assuming the bench. New York Opinion 2022-86.
  • A judicial candidate who learns that their political party is circulating petitions naming them as a candidate for a non-judicial office must request in writing that the party immediately stop and advise that, if elected, they will decline to serve. New York Opinion 2022-61.

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