A sampling of recent judicial ethics advisory opinions

  • To fall within the exception to the prohibition on ex parte communications that allows judges to consult with other judges, a consultation need not be a question or request for advice or follow a particular format but is any conversation that assists a judicial officer carry out judicial functions and facilitates independent decision-making and may include a discussion of the facts or legal issues in a case.  California Formal Opinion 2022-20.
  • A prosecutor may prepare a judgment entry at a judge’s direction on the record in the presence of opposing counsel, but the prosecutor should not subsequently communicate with the judge or court staff about substantive changes or the merits unless opposing counsel is included in the communications.  Ohio Opinion 2022-12.
  • A judicial officer must disclose whenever their former spouse or a lawyer whom they previously dated appears in a case regardless how much time has elapsed since the divorce or the termination of the relationship.  When a judicial officer and an attorney have a child in common through birth, adoption, or legal authority over a child as authorized by the probate or family court, the judicial officer must disclose the relationship to the parties regardless of the child’s age.  Michigan Opinion JI-153 (2022).
  • A judge should not participate in a program to distribute gift cards to kinship guardians but may inform them of the program.  New Mexico Opinion 2022-3.
  • A judge who saw another judge’s comment on a social media post praising a local law enforcement agency for “solving” a high-profile crime must report the other judge to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct even if they have already reported the judge to a supervising or administrative judge.  New York Opinion 2022-115.
  • When an attorney is disrespectful toward the court and staff, is uncooperative, refuses to discuss settlement of cases, and is often unprepared, a judge may not bar the attorney from the court but may take appropriate action to address the attorney’s disruption of the court’s docket, including communicating in writing with the law firms for which the attorney appears of counsel and requiring that the attorney comply with the rules.  New York Opinion 2022-143.
  • A law clerk may engage in pro bono activities such as training, writing, or speaking about the law, but may not undertake any pro bono legal services or representation that would be considered the practice of law even on uncontested matters that are not pending in the jurisdiction of their clerkship.  Maryland Opinion Request 2022-44.
  • A judge may attend the swearing in and/or gala for a new governor but must not use their attendance as an opportunity to seek elevation by the governor to a higher bench; must not be seated on the dais with the governor or position themself in a way that suggests a particular allegiance with the governor unless they are officiating or playing a formal role in the inauguration ceremony; and should be identified, to the extent possible, only by their name, without reference to their judicial title.  Unless Maryland courts are closed on inauguration day, a judge must comply with any requirements for securing leave needed to attend the ceremony.  Maryland Opinion Request 2022-52.
  • A judge who has been noticed to serve on a grand jury panel must report for service unless excused by the presiding judge even though many assistant district attorneys appear before them. If the judge serves as a grand juror, they may not preside in that case if it comes before their court. New York Opinion 2022-141.
  • To provide emotional support, a judge may attend proceedings in a case involving criminal charges against their adult daughter.  New Mexico Opinion 2022-2.
  • A judge may attend as a guest of their partner a fund-raising gala benefiting a 501(c)(3) organization “committed to reforming New York City and State government by fostering accountability, accessibility, transparency, honesty and the highest ethical standards” and its “lobbying arm,” a 501(c)(4) organization.  New York Opinion 2022-124.
  • A judge may donate to Vote.org, which describes itself as the “largest 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan voting registration and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) technology platform in America, with the goal of reaching historically underserved voters of color and underrepresented young voters.”  New York Opinion 2022-150.
  • A magistrate court judge may serve as a board member of a non-profit organization that provides information and resources on pregnancy, sexual health, and relationships.  South Carolina Opinion 19-2022.
  • A judge may not participate in a silent demonstration organized by a local not-for-profit civic organization at which community members will hold hands to show their opposition to gun violence in reaction to the recent death of a local child and an increase in local gun violence.  New York Opinion 2022-160.

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