Reviews, blurbs, and prefaces

Advisory opinions on the issue allow a judge to write a book review but prohibit a judge from allowing excerpts from a positive review to be used to promote the book and from writing a blurb solely for marketing purposes.

For example, the California Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions recently advised that, when the primary purpose “is to engage in educational discourse related to the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice,” a judicial officer “may review, critique, or comment on legal education books in a legal publication” and include their title in the review.  California Supreme Court Committee Advisory Opinion 2022-48. The opinion noted that the code “generally permits and encourages judges to engage in educational activities, particularly those concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice” but also prohibits using judicial prestige to advance others’ interests.  To “harmoniz[e]” those provisions, it explained:

Discussions regarding legal education books or writings in legal publications, such as legal periodicals or newsletters, have important educational value and contribute to the improvement of the law and legal system. . . .  While the committee agrees that judges may not promote others’ written works, review or critique of legal works is an educational exercise and consistent with the canons.  Although a positive review or discussion may incidentally lead to increased sales, the primary purpose of such discussions is educational rather than promotional.

The opinion cautioned that the substance of the review “must otherwise comply with the canons; for example, the judicial officer must not engage in improper political commentary or undermine the integrity or impartiality of the judiciary.”

Moreover, the committee advised that a judicial officer who has not contributed to a book may not provide a written endorsement that includes their title to be used on the book cover because the primary purpose of such an endorsement is to allow the publisher to “leverage” the judicial title to market the publication.  It explained:

Authors and publishers typically seek written endorsements from high-profile or prestigious individuals, sometimes called “book blurbs,” for the placement on a book cover to market and promote the book for sale.  An endorsement from a well-known judge, for example, might suggest to would-be readers that a law-related book is particularly interesting or useful, leading to increased sales.  When a judicial officer has not authored, co-authored, or contributed to the book, the primary purpose of such an endorsement is not to identify a contributor by judicial title or engage in an educational exercise, but rather to use the endorsing judicial officer’s title to promote sales.

Other opinions reflect a similar distinction.

  • A judge may write a review of a book about an historical event for a legal periodical as an academic exercise and not for commercial purposes but may not for marketing purposes write a testimonial regarding the value of a bar publication or write commentary to be included on a book jacket.  California Judges Association Advisory Opinion 65 (2012).
  • A judge may not write a testimonial/endorsement for a legal practice guide published by a non-profit, bar-related legal organization.  Connecticut Informal Advisory Opinion 2010-35.
  • A judge may not write comments about how an expert witness’s book would contribute to the legal profession from a judge’s perspective to be included in the book and potentially used in advertisements.  Florida Advisory Opinion 2021-17.
  • A judge may not write an appraisal intended to promote the sales of a book but may write a book review in a journal or newspaper intended “to inform the legal community or the general public of a new contribution to the legal or general literature,” even if the publisher uses excerpts from the review to promote sales and even if the newspaper or journal compensates the judge for the review.  Illinois Advisory Opinion 1994-15.
  • A judge may write book reviews for compensation for an out-of-state newspaper when they were asked because of their prior journalism experience, not because they are currently a judge, and they would not be identified as a judge in the reviews.  Kansas Advisory Opinion 186 (2020).
  • A judge may write a review of several books on methamphetamine addiction.  Nevada Advisory Opinion JE2008-8.
  • A judge may review a legal textbook and retain the reviewed book in their personal library.  New York Advisory Opinion 2021-117.
  • A judge may write and post a review of a friend’s novel online without mentioning their judicial position provided the purpose is not to promote the book’s sale and the judge does authorize use of the review on the book jacket or elsewhere to promote sales.  New York Advisory Opinion 2020-85.
  • A judge may not provide an endorsement of a friend’s non-fiction book that would appear on the cover and identify them as a New York judge even if their name is not used.  New York Advisory Opinion 2012-26.
  • A judge may not provide a quote to be included on the inside leaf of a book a friend has written about auditing fraud even if their title will not be mentioned and the only compensation is a complimentary copy of the book.  New York Advisory Opinion 2011-54.
  • A judge may submit to the New York Law Journal a review of a book authored by a clergy member at their house of worship but should not permit the author or publisher to use any portion of the review to promote the book’s sale.  New York Advisory Opinion 2006-114.
  • A judge may write a review of a novel for a local legal newspaper but should not permit the author or publisher to use part of the review to promote the book’s sale and should inform the newspaper, in writing, that the review is being provided on the understanding that no portion can be used for promotions.  New York Advisory Opinion 2005-28.
  • A judge may review a legal publication but should not prepare a testimonial that would be included in a marketing brochure or provide a quote about a book for the book jacket.  New York Advisory Opinion 1997-133.
  • A judge may not author a quote about a book involving legal issues solely for use on the book jacket but may write a book review for publication in the New York Law Journal or elsewhere.  New York Advisory Opinion 1993-14.
  • A judge may not write a review of a book on a legal subject when the publisher has stated that it will use some of the judge’s comments to promote sales.  Pennsylvania Informal Advisory Opinion 11/4/03.
  • A judge may write a letter on judicial letterhead at the request of a for-profit publisher to be included in a booklet about substance abuse as long as it cannot be interpreted as an endorsement of the booklet and does not impact the appearance of the judge’s impartiality in the trial of related matters.  Texas Advisory Opinion 192 (1996).
  • A judge may write book reviews that are “bona fide contributions addressing the substance” of the book and that do not “exploit or detract from the dignity of the office” but “should undertake reasonable efforts to guard against the subsequent use” of a review in promotional materials that may exploit the prestige of the office.  U.S. Advisory Opinion 114 (2014).

Prefaces

With some caveats, judicial ethics advisory committees allow judges to write forewords, prologues, or prefaces for books if they will not receive compensation.

In giving that permission, several committees remind judges to retain editorial control over the content of what they write and the right to review any biographical information used.  See Connecticut Advisory Opinion 2010-15; Florida Advisory Opinion 2020-11. For example, the Maryland committee advised that a judge who is writing an introduction to a book should take reasonable steps to ensure that the publisher does not exploit the prestige of their judicial office in marketing of the book, explaining that, in the context of a book published by a non-profit entity such as a bar association, the judge should ask “the publisher to consult with the [judge] before mentioning [their] name or position in any marketing efforts.”  Maryland Advisory Opinion Request 1980-7.

Some of the opinions warn the judge that a foreword they write should not identify them as a judge.  See Florida Advisory Opinion 2020-11.  Some note that the judge did not plan to identify their judicial status in the foreword, suggesting the answer may be different if the preface refers to their office.  See Connecticut Advisory Opinion 2010-15; Florida Advisory Opinion 2020-11.  Other opinions do not address the issue.

Some opinions remind the judge to review the entire book and determine whether authoring a foreword will cast doubt on their impartiality or reflect a predisposition regarding particular cases, issues, parties, or witnesses.  Connecticut Advisory Opinion 2010-15; Florida Advisory Opinion 2020-11See also Ohio Advisory Opinion 1987-8.  Similarly, the Massachusetts committee advised that a judge should be careful to ensure that nothing they write in the foreword or any way they associate themself with anything the author writes casts doubts on their capacity to make impartial decisions.  Massachusetts Advisory Opinion 1993-2.

The opinions state:

  • A judge may author a foreword to a book written by a police officer on child safety and the Internet but, if the author appears as a party or witness before the judge or the judge presides over a case about the subject of the book, the judge should disclose the connection and consider recusal at a party’s request based on “the nature of the proceeding or docket, whether reference to or reliance upon the book is foreseeable, whether the Judicial Official is the sole decision maker (i.e. whether the matter is to the court or a jury) and whether self-represented parties or lawyers are involved.”  Connecticut Advisory Opinion 2010-15.
  • A judge may write the foreword to a self-published memoir written by a family member.  Florida Advisory Opinion 2020-11.
  • A judge may write the preface to a book about the history of the county.  Florida Advisory Opinion 1977-5.
  • A judge may provide an introduction to a book on a specific area of state law published by the Maryland State Bar Association as part of its continuing legal education program, but different considerations may apply to works published by for-profit entities.  Maryland Advisory Opinion Request 2013-26.
  • A judge may write an introduction recommending a book about the prevention and treatment of alcoholism to judges and other professionals.  Maryland Advisory Opinion Request 1980-7.
  • A probate and family court judge may write a foreword for a book on divorce.  Massachusetts Advisory Opinion 1993-2.
  • A judge may write a foreword for a book on the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution.  Ohio Advisory Opinion 1987–8.
  • A judge may write forewords for books that are “bona fide contributions addressing the substance of the book” but should make reasonable efforts to prohibit its use in promotional materials.  U.S. Advisory Opinion 114 (2014).

The only outlier is a New York advisory opinion stating that a judge should not write a foreword to a law book dealing with the court over which the judge presides when the book is a commercial publication intended to earn a profit for the publisher and author.  New York Advisory Opinion 1997-1.  The committee reasoned:

[T]here is a clear and overt nexus between the writing that is sought and the private interests of the publisher and author.  For, in writing such a Foreword, the judge could readily be perceived as endorsing the publication and providing it with a judicial stamp of approval.  Indeed, that perception of a judicial imprimatur is heightened considerably in this instance, since the subject matter of the book is the workings of the very court over which the judge presides and about which the judge has special knowledge and expertise.

Thus, it is not only the prestige of judicial office that is involved in this instance but the prestige of the particular judicial office held by the inquirer.

Throwback Thursday

10 years ago this month:

  • Adopting the findings and conclusions of the Commission on Judicial Conduct and affirming the recommended sanction, the Arizona Supreme Court removed a justice of the peace from office for asking the court manager to move his vehicle to avoid a process server attempting to serve him with an order of protection, continuing to hear cases involving such orders, invoking his position repeatedly with law enforcement authorities, and sending threatening texts to his wife; the Court also ordered that the judge shall not hold judicial office or perform judicial functions in Arizona for at least 5 years.  In the Matter of Woolbright, Order (Arizona Supreme Court July 23, 2012).
  • The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge because he failed to resolve issues on his website about advertisements for weddings services despite receiving an informal sanction.  Jayne, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct July 9, 2012).
  • Pursuant to a stipulation, the California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly censured a judge for seeking preferential treatment from a commissioner of his court for a traffic citation issued to his wife.  Inquiry Concerning Sarmiento, Decision and Order (California Commission on Judicial Performance July 5, 2012).
  • The California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly admonished a judge for ordering an attorney he had said was contemptuous to remain in the courtroom for over an hour and a half without adjudicating the alleged contempt and for ordering the attorney to “spend every waking moment” working on the case until the preliminary hearing to the exclusion of other cases and social activity.  Public Admonishment of Jacobson (California Commission on Judicial Performance July 11, 2012).
  • Approving the findings and recommendation of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the Florida Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge for driving under the influence and crashing the vehicle she was driving.  Inquiry Concerning Nelson, 95 So. 3d 122 (Florida 2012).
  • With the judge’s consent, in lieu of filing formal disciplinary proceedings, the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications publicly admonished a judge for granting an ex parte motion for custody filed by a child’s maternal grandparents without prior notice to the non-custodial father or an opportunity for him to be heard.  Public Admonition of Johnston (Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications July 5, 2012).
  • The Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed the Judicial Conduct Commission’s removal of a judge for (1) advocating at a county meeting that $500,000 donated by criminal defendants under a plea agreement be used to fund a water park; (2) making misstatements in an order; (3) establishing a special grand jury to discredit the judge-executive; (4) viewing videotapes regarding the sheriff’s investigation of the judge-executive; (5) presiding over 2 criminal cases that he had urged the state police to investigate and the commonwealth’s attorney to pursue; (6) urging Kentucky Utilities to donate $12,500 for playground equipment at his children’s elementary school; (7) raising funds for playground equipment for his children’s school; and (8) removing an assistant public defender as counsel in cases without giving her an opportunity to be heard.  Alred v. Judicial Conduct Commission, 395 S.W.3d 417 (Kentucky 2012).
  • Affirming the recommendation of the Judicial Tenure Commission, the Michigan Supreme Court removed a judge from office for (1) inappropriate financial transactions and practices, including misappropriating public funds; (2) failing to ensure that a business-attire policy was properly enforced and did not deny people access to the court; (3) knowingly rehiring an unqualified magistrate, misrepresenting that he was qualified, and requiring him to sign bench warrants, contrary to statute; (4) hiring her niece; and (5) making misrepresentations during the investigation and hearing, including lying under oath.  In re James, 821 N.W.2d 144 (Michigan 2012).
  • Adopting the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, which the judge accepted, the New Jersey Supreme Court suspended a judge for 4 months without pay for attending a holiday party hosted by the probation association and, while at the party, touching women and making sexually suggestive remarks to them; as a prerequisite to the resumption of his duties, the Court ordered the judge to participate in a rehabilitative program.  In the Matter of Jones, 47 A.3d 736 (New Jersey 2012).
  • The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline removed a former judge and barred him from serving in judicial office after finding that he had committed conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and conduct that brought the judicial office into disrepute when he took sexual liberties with 2 women appearing in his courtroom.  In re Cioppa, 51 A.3d 923 (Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline 2012).
  • Pursuant to the judge’s agreement, the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary publicly reprimanded a judge for denying a motion to recuse in an order that recited facts that he should not have considered and that accused the moving attorneys of misconduct.  Re Gasaway (Tennessee Court of the Judiciary July 2, 2012).

Recent cases

  • Based on stipulated facts and legal conclusions and an agreement that included the justice’s retirement, the California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly admonished a former court of appeal justice for (1) a pattern of delay in deciding approximately 200 appellate matters over a 10-year period and (2) failing to properly exercise his administrative and supervisory authority as administrative presiding justice to prevent chronic delays in cases assigned to other justices on the court. In the Matter Concerning Raye, Decision and order (California Commission on Judicial Performance June 1, 2022).
  • Based on the judge’s retirement and agreement not to seek, request, or accept any judicial office in the future in the state, the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission resolved its investigation of a former part-time judge; the investigative panel had authorized a full investigation of conduct that indicated that he had been improperly involved as an attorney in several cases in his court; conduct that indicated that he had taken action on a few cases in his court in which he should have recused himself; and conduct that indicated that he had represented a party in personal litigation in another jurisdiction while the party regularly appeared before him in his judicial capacity. In re Zimmerman, Report of disposition (Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission June 10, 2022).
  • Based on the report and recommendation of the hearing panel of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, to which the judge had not objected, the Georgia Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge for berating a bail bondsman who had criticized the judge on Facebook when a rape defendant whom the judge had released on his own recognizance after a mistrial failed to appear for his retrial. Inquiry Concerning Norris (Georgia Supreme Court June 22, 2022).
  • Accepting a joint petition for consent discipline, the Louisiana Supreme Court suspended a former judge from the practice of law for 1 year and 1 day based on an investigation of allegations that, while he was a judge, he engaged in unwelcome touching of several women and acting inappropriately in the courtroom. In re Williams (Louisiana Supreme Court June 28, 2022).
  • Accepting a stipulation based on the judge’s affirmation that she will not seek or accept judicial office in the future, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct concluded a proceeding against a former non-lawyer judge; in June 2021, the Commission had informed the judge that it was investigating a complaint about her failure to report to the State Comptroller moneys that she had received in connection with her duties as town justice. In the Matter of Inman, Decision and order (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct June 16, 2022).
  • Based on an agreement for discipline by consent, the South Carolina Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a non-lawyer magistrate for failing to allow the parties and their lawyers in cases involving the sheriff’s office time to consider the question of remittal outside his presence after disclosing that his wife was a captain in the sheriff’s office, failing to ensure that any agreements to waive disqualification were placed on the record, and failing to disclose when his wife had supervised the officers in a case. In the Matter of Barker (South Carolina Supreme Court June 15, 2022).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for refusing to accept a defendant’s guilty plea and, following her conviction, announcing his intention to appoint a new lawyer for a motion for new trial limited to punishment issues; the Commission also ordered that the judge receive 3 hours of instruction on criminal pleas with a mentor. Public Reprimand of Wilson and Order of Additional Education (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct June 8, 2022).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for operating a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol and causing a single car accident. Public Admonition of Moorehead (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct June 9, 2022).
  • Based on a stipulation and agreement, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for saying “kicked that motherf*er’s a,” believing he was no longer on the line after a telephonic hearing but while the attorneys were still on the line and the courtroom’s audio recording was still activated. In re Dixon, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct June 24, 2022).
  • Based on a stipulation and agreement, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for comments implying that a defendant might be raped in prison; the judge also agreed to participate in ethics training focused on appropriate courtroom demeanor. In re Amato, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct June 24, 2022).
  • Based on a stipulation and agreement, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for significant delays in issuing decisions after hearings in 3 small claims cases. In re Howson, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct June 24, 2022).

What they said that got them in trouble so far in 2022

  • “You’re setting yourself up, sir, to be Bubba’s new best girlfriend at the state penitentiary.  I hope you realize that.  That may hopefully give you a graphic image to think about. . . .   And if you think I’m kidding, I’m not. . . .  The folks at the penitentiary have mothers and sisters and nieces and cousins that they do not want someone out there abusing.  And they will take that out on you, at the penitentiary.  So think about that because you’re racking up felonies at this point.”  Judge to defendant during arraignment on domestic violence charge.  In re Amato, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct June 24, 2022) (admonishment).
  • “Kicked that motherf***er’s a**.”  Judge when he believed that he was no longer on the line after a telephonic hearing had adjourned but, in fact, when the attorneys could still hear him.  In re Dixon, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct June 24, 2022) (admonishment).
  • “Well we’re going to proceed to a jury trial, so your plea has to be not guilty.”  Judge to defendant who wanted to plead guilty.  Public Reprimand of Wilson and Order of Additional Education (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct June 8, 2022).
  • “I’m pleading you guilty.”  Judge after questioning unrepresented defendant about the reasons he failed to appear at a prior court date and using his answers to coerce him to plead guilty.  Rummer, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct May 24, 2022) (reprimand).
  • “I’ll tell you when I’m coming back.  It’s not going to be today.  You get your client under control or I am going to tear him up on the stand.  Do you understand me? . . .  He talks over me one more time, I am going to rule summarily against him.  Do you understand that?”  Judge, loudly to the point of yelling, to husband’ counsel in civil action, before leaving the courtroom and failing to the return to the bench to continue hearing the case.  In re Placey, Opinion and order (Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline February 14, 2022) (reprimand of former judge for rude, loud outbursts towards counsel and witnesses in 6 cases).
  • “Playing games” and “being a consistent problem in court.”  Judge to defense counsel.  Public Reprimand of Mullin (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct March 4, 2022) (reprimand for this and other misconduct).
  • “The reality has – has come to me that I may not be suitable for this;’” and “[It would have been easier if you had] fussed [at me].  Then we could have rolled around on the floor and strangled each other . . . .”  Judge during ex parte conversation in chambers with the wife’s attorney during the trial in a divorce case.  Public Admonition of Wells (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 20, 2022) (admonition for this and other angry and frustrated outbursts during a trial).
  • “You start with all the information from the report, all the testimony crescendos to the cause and manner of death, which is the sex of the testimony;” and You want to tease the jury with the details of the examination;” and “You want to lead them to the climax of the manner and cause of death,” or words to that effect. Judge giving prosecutor feedback on her cross examination of the medical examiner in a homicide case. In re Morrow (Michigan Supreme Court January 13, 2022) (6-month suspension without pay for this and related misconduct).
  • “Well, I haven’t assessed your muscle mass yet.” Judge to prosecutor when she told him he had guessed her weight wrong. In re Morrow (Michigan Supreme Court January 13, 2022) (6-month suspension without pay for this and related misconduct).
  • “Frigid.” Judge to court clerks. Staggs, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct January 26, 2022) () (reprimand for this and other misconduct).
  • “Sit down and listen to what I have to say.” Judge at the beginning of a 30-minute tirade in chambers to a bail bondsman he had summoned to his chambers after the bondsman criticized him on Facebook. Inquiry Concerning Norris (Georgia Supreme Court June 22, 2022) (reprimand).
  • “A**hole decision.” Magistrate in heated exchange during a meeting in response to a police captain’s criticism to a reporter of the bond the magistrate had set in a case. Public Admonishment of Gaujot (West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission April 25, 2022) (admonishment for this and other misconduct).
  • “I have been a probate judge for six years now. And never in my time on the bench have I ever been as personally offended as I am with you right now.” Judge to litigant in 1-hour diatribe during a status conference he called after the litigant had criticized him at the county board of commissioners for not disqualifying himself when his daughter appeared as an attorney. Disciplinary Counsel v. O’Diam (Ohio Supreme Court April 28, 2022) (6-month suspension, stayed with conditions).
  • “It appears that both detectives conducted themselves appropriately in this case, and I find no fault with their investigation;” and “It distresses me greatly to think anyone considers me unfair or biased.” Judge in 2 letters to the police chief about police detectives who were being investigated for misconduct in a case over which she had presided. In the Matter Concerning Meyer, Decision and order (California Commission on Judicial Performance April 5, 2022) (admonishment).
  • “King” and “hang’em high prosecutors.” Judge referring to himself and assistant district attorneys after summoning several ADAs to his chambers to express “his displeasure with their failure to treat him with sufficient respect.” Public Admonition of Jordan and Order of Additional Education (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct May 13, 2022).
  • “I am so sorry for your continued pain. I don’t have the answer, but I am working on the entire situation. I assure you because I am not happy with the current exigencies as currently exist. Keep praying and I will do the same.” Judge via Facebook Messenger to grandmother in a child custody case. In re Denton (Louisiana Supreme Court March 25, 2022) (4-month suspension without pay for this and other ex parte communications with the grandmother for over a 6-month period and related misconduct).
  • “You going to be a good girl?” Judge to woman when he ordered her release 25 days after having arbitrarily ordering that she be imprisoned on a “dubious probation violation charge” out of anger and “on a personal whim” after she offended his law clerk in a disagreement in a convenience store. In re Toothman, Opinion and order (Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline March 17, 2022) (removal for this and other misconduct).
  • “You think I’m going to retaliate? You’re damned right I’m going to retaliate!” Judge after being told the posting of an employee’s private grievance on a public bulletin board might constitute retaliation. In re Toothman, Opinion and order (Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline March 17, 2022) (removal for this and other misconduct).
  • “You need to calm your a** down! I am a Magistrate;” “sh** bags;” and “started running her mouth because she’s a woman.” Judge during confrontation with neighbor when police responded to a neighborhood incident, referring to homeless people and his neighbor’s wife. Public Admonishment of Weiss (West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission April 25, 2022).
  • “Muslims need to learn to be American;” “You’re not Special” because “white slaves were sold for centuries;” and “If we had equal rights … my southern heritage would be just as important as your black history.” Memes posted by judge on Facebook page. Public Warning of Black (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 7, 2022) (public warning for this and other misconduct).
  • When you vote, the right experience is what matters. While Sharon Marchman has spent her thirty-three year career protecting you, her opponent Jimbo Stephens’ law firm, Stephens and Stephens, was getting paid to defend Sonny James Caston, convicted of murdering a deputy sheriff. Then he reversed a jury’s conviction of a burglar with a twelve-page criminal history. When asked about a crime, Judge Jimbo Stephens stated, ‘It’s illegal to get caught.’ Vote for the right experience – Judge Sharon Marchman.” Judge in campaign ad about opponent. Public Admonishment of Marchman (Louisiana Judiciary Commission April 26, 2022).

Hot mic and disruptions

2 judges were recently disciplined for misconduct related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On June 8, 2021, after a telephonic hearing in a civil case in which he had sanctioned one of the parties, a judge said that the hearing was adjourned.  Then, believing he was no longer on the line with the parties or on the record, the judge, who was alone in his chambers, said, “Kicked that motherf***er’s a**.”  In fact, he had not disconnected, the attorneys were still on the line, and the courtroom’s audio recording was still activated.  The attorney whose client had been sanctioned believed the comment was directed at him. 

Immediately after the hearing, the judge realized what had happened, called both attorneys to apologize, and called the Commission to self-report.  Later that week, he recused himself from the case.

Based on a stipulation and agreement, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished him.  In re Dixon, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct June 24, 2022).

During the Commission investigation, the judge explained that he sometimes uses crude language in private and his comment had not been directed at a particular person or party but was an expression of relief at finishing the hearing, which he had not intended the attorneys to hear.  The Commission found that because the comment was made after a hearing in which one side was sanctioned, “the comment was reasonably interpreted to be directed at a particular attorney creating an appearance of bias or prejudice against that attorney.” The Commission noted that, after the incident, the judge had put reminders to use appropriate language by the equipment used for remote meetings.

The Commission stated:

[J]udges are the embodiment of the justice system, and they are directed by the Code to “aspire at all times to conduct that ensures the greatest possible public confidence in their independence, impartiality, and integrity, and competence,” and regardless of his intention, the impact on the listeners was demeaning and upsetting.  It created the impression the judge was disrespectful and disdainful of counsel. . . .  Language that manifests bias or prejudice, or profanity, has no place in a court proceeding.  Discourteous and disrespectful behavior by a judge erodes confidence in the quality of justice administered by that judge, not only for the direct targets of such behavior, but also for all those who witness it.

* * *

A judge explained that the difficulty of maintaining court operations during the pandemic contributed to the significant delays in deciding 3 small claims cases for which she agreed to be was publicly admonished.  In re Howson, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct June 24, 2022).  She also noted that she had been covering the caseloads of judicial officers with health issues and had been displaced from her chambers while the courthouse was being repaired.  The delays were for approximately 722 days, 406 days, and 115 days between the trial of the case and entry of the judge’s decision.

The Commission stated that it was “mindful of the difficulty and stresses caused by the pandemic and other court disruptions” and noted that the judge “has a reputation as a very careful and thoughtful jurist.”  But the Commission emphasized:  “The nature of this type of misconduct – decisional delay – is inherently problematic because it deprives litigants of timely justice, which often cannot be remedied through the appellate process.  Issuing timely decisions is a core function for any judicial officer and the misconduct here was not isolated.” 

* * *

12 other prior public sanctions and 2 private sanctions have addressed misconduct related to the pandemic.

  • Judge failed to grant a continuance requested by an attorney who had COVID-19 symptoms or to make arrangements to allow the attorney to appear telephonically and then granted a default judgment against the attorney’s client, a defendant in a civil traffic case.  Sears, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct January 26, 2022) (admonishment).
  • Judge spoke sharply to court staff when disconnected from a Zoom hearing and yelled at court staff when lawyers and parties were allowed into the courtroom prior to the scheduled time for a case.  Quickle, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct June 11, 2021) (reprimand).
  • Judge repeatedly failed to wear a face covering when interacting with the public and staff in court facilities as required by administrative orders, failed to require individuals in his courtroom to abide by administrative orders, and appeared “to publicly denigrate those orders.”  Goodman, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct May 13, 2021) (reprimand).
  • Judge displayed improper demeanor toward 2 criminal defense attorneys appearing by phone for an arraignment on the first day after the stay-at-home order was in effectIn the Matter Concerning Connolly, Decision and order (California Commission on Judicial Performance April 2, 2021) (admonishment for this and other misconduct).
  • , in addition to other misconduct.  In the Matter of Guthrie, Order (New Mexico Supreme Court April 25, 2022) (permanent resignation).
  • Judge engaged in disruptive behavior during a meeting about the court’s COVID-19 safety plan, confronted another magistrate and the Chief Magistrate after the meeting, and made an inappropriate statement to a clerk about the Chief Magistrate’s complaint to Disciplinary Counsel.  In the Matter of Rivers, 862 S.E.2d 449 (South Carolina 2021) (6-month suspension without pay).
  • Judge stated in the courtroom:  “The Grand Wizard of our Supreme Court said we have to wear these masks.”  Ledsinger (Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct September 28, 2020).
  • Judge failed to comply with the court’s COVID-19 plan on courtroom capacity and social distancing and commented in the courtroom that he wished the chief justice “would win an award so that the COVID-19 mandates” would end.  Hinson (Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct December 15, 2020) (reprimand).
  • Judge stated in a post on the county’s Facebook page that he would release anyone brought before him charged with violating stay-at-home orders issued during the COVID-19 public health emergency.  Public Admonition of Black (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct February 28, 2022).
  • Judge, in addition to other misconduct, issued peace bond warrants for President Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci, alleging that their immigration policies, COVID-19 health restrictions, and firearms policies constituted threats to commit offenses under Texas law against multiple anonymous complainants; the warrants were the subject of national news coverage, and the judge participated in media interviews concerning the warrants.  Public Warning of Black (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 7, 2022).
  • Judge declined to determine who was attempting to appear at the end of a calendar via Zoom.  In re Burchett, Stipulation, agreement, and order of reprimand (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 23, 2021) (reprimand for this and other misconduct).
  • Judge criticized the prosecution of a case in comments that he thought could only be heard by the court employees in the courtroom but that were being broadcast through the court’s YouTube channel.  In re Antush, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct November 19, 2021) (admonishment).
  • Magistrate posted on Facebook that if a citizen were criminally cited for not wearing a mask and appeared before him, he would dismiss the citation because he thought it was unconstitutional.  Described in Public Admonishment of Weiss (West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission April 25, 2022).

Recent cases

  • Denying a motion for reconsideration, the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper defending an attorney from attacks by the county attorney and failing to recuse from a criminal case in which the attorney was a witness.  Bernini, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct March 21, 2022).
  • The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for questioning an unrepresented defendant and telling him, “I’m pleading you guilty.”  Rummer, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct May 24, 2022).
  • Reviewing the findings and recommendations of a hearing panel of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the Florida Supreme Court suspended a judge for 60 days without pay, fined her $30,000, and ordered her to appear before it to be publicly reprimanded for (1) representing her son at the police station following his arrest and (2) failing to appropriately supervise her judicial assistant, who sat a counsel table during 2 hearings in the judge’s son’s case and gave him her security badge.  Inquiry Concerning Hobbs (Florida Supreme Court May 19, 2022).  The Court also ordered the judge to attend an employee management program.
  • Pursuant to a deferred recommendation of discipline agreement, the Louisiana Judiciary Commission publicly admonished a justice of the peace for improperly charging her constable some expenses attributable solely to the operation of her office, failing to adequately communicate and cooperate with her constable about accounting and fee sharing, and failing to retain in a separate account the filing fees charged for the clerk of court as required by statute; the Commission also ordered the judge to pay $1,929.34 to the constable’s office in restitution.  In re Holmes, Deferred recommendation of discipline agreement (Louisiana Judiciary Commission May 27, 2022).
  • Based on a stipulation of discipline by consent, the New Jersey Supreme Court publicly censured a judge for failing to recuse himself from a matter involving the son of the former mayor and creating the appearance of bias in favor of the former mayor, having an ex parte communication with the former mayor, and amending a search warrant to exclude the former mayor’s firearms without following appropriate procedures.  In the Matter of Killen, Order (New Jersey Supreme Court May 16, 2022).
  • Based on a stipulation of discipline by consent, the New Jersey Supreme Court publicly censured a judge for continuing to sit as a municipal judge for 13 months while she was administratively ineligible to practice law based on her failure to comply with the mandatory IOLTA program.  In the Matter of Guzman, Order (New Jersey Supreme Court May 18, 2022).
  • Accepting a stipulation based on the judge’s affirmation that he has vacated his office and will not seek or accept judicial office in the future, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct concluded a proceeding against a former non-lawyer judge; the Commission had informed the judge that it was investigating complaints alleging that he, inter alia, (1) failed to make mandatory reports and remittances to the State Comptroller in a timely manner, (2) failed to record all proceedings, as required by law, and (3) failed to administer his court effectively.  In the Matter of Engle, Decision and order (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct May 5, 2022).
  • Based on an agreement for discipline by consent, the South Carolina Supreme Court suspended a non-lawyer magistrate for 6 months without pay for, while her husband was sheriff, accessing messages with citizen complaints on the sheriff department’s Facebook page and forwarding those complaints to the department using her judicial email account with requests that certain actions be taken, involving herself in sheriff’s department personnel matters, and preparing correspondence on behalf of the sheriff’s department. In the Matter of Underwood (South Carolina Supreme Court May 25, 2022).
  • Pursuant to the judge’s agreement, the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct suspended a judge for 30 days for driving under the influence. In re Humphrey, Order (Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct May 26, 2022).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for (1) summoning several assistant district attorneys to his chambers to express his displeasure with their failure to treat him with sufficient respect and to lecture them that they could be held in criminal contempt for that disrespect, referring to himself as the “king” of his court and calling the ADAs “hang’em high prosecutors” during the meeting; and (2) on at least 1 occasion, threatening on the record to charge an ADA with contempt of court for failing to show him the proper respect. Public Admonition of Jordan and Order of Additional Education (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct May 13, 2022). The Commission also ordered the judge to obtain 2 hours of additional education with a mentor on judicial temperament and demeanor and a judge’s role as a public servant.

Casting aspersions

In a recent advisory opinion, the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission emphasized that, although judicial candidates may criticize their campaign opponents or republish negative reports, the candidates must be “scrupulously fair and accurate” if they engage in that tactic.  Indiana Advisory Opinion 1-2022.

The opinion directed judicial candidates to ensure that statements expressing subjective views about their opponent’s experience and qualifications were truthful and not misleading.  It explained:

  • A candidate should “corroborate” the information they rely on when criticizing an opponent.
  • A candidate may state that they are “’more qualified’ or ‘more prepared’ than an opponent so long as that opinion is supported by the candidate’s actual experiences and professional background in comparison to their opponent’s.”
  • A candidate may comment on any public disciplinary history their opponent may have, but only in a dignified manner appropriate to the judicial office.
  • A candidate “should avoid attributing a position or policy perspective to an opponent (such as calling an opponent ‘liberal’ or ‘soft on crime’) based solely on the handling of a particular type of case.” 

The opinion also warned against “drawing misleading conclusions” from “incomplete negative statistical or historic data” to, for example, blame an opponent for a rise in crime.  It directed judicial candidates to consider:

  • Whether corroborating evidence is sufficient to establish a link to “an opponent’s actions or inactions,”
  • Whether contrary evidence refutes the supposed connection, and
  • Whether there are “alternative explanations.”

Further, the opinion stated that, in statements about an opponent’s background or qualifications, judicial candidates:

  • Should not engage in “speculation, hyperbole, and innuendo,”
  • Should not omit “salient facts,” and
  • “Should consider the ethical perils of:”
    • “Using emotionally-charged buzzwords that carry misleading connotations;”
    • “Casting negative aspersions on certain roles in the legal system as purported evidence of unfitness;” or
    • “Mischaracterizing or overstating the role and powers of the judiciary.”

Those “ethical perils” are illustrated by the recent public admonishment of a Louisiana judge for a campaign ad that “inappropriately undermine[d] the vital role” of criminal defense attomeys and could “distort the public’s perception regarding the proper role of judges.”  Public Admonishment of Marchman (Louisiana Judiciary Commission April 26, 2022).

In 2018, Judge Marchman, a district court judge, ran for a seat on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals against the incumbent, Judge Jimbo Stephens.

In one of the Judge Marchman’s video campaign advertisements posted on Facebook, a narrator stated:

When you vote, the right experience is what matters.  While Sharon Marchman has spent her thirty-three year career protecting you, her opponent Jimbo Stephens’ law firm, Stephens and Stephens, was getting paid to defend Sonny James Caston, convicted of murdering a deputy sheriff.  

The Louisiana Judiciary Commission acknowledged that judicial candidates may contrast their experience with that of their opponents but concluded that this comparison was inappropriate because it “cast[] aspersions on Judge Stephens’ and his father’s fulfillment of fundamental and appropriate functions in our legal system.”  The admonishment stated that, although the ad’s reference to Judge Stephens’ law firm “getting paid to defend” a person convicted of murdering a law enforcement officer “may not contain any false statements,” its omission of the circumstances – Judge Stephens’ father/law partner had been appointed by a court to represent an indigent defendant 30 years ago – misled the public.  Writing to the judge, the Commission explained:

Even ignoring the fact that Judge Stephens’ father was providing an important public service by representing a defendant who could not afford an attorney, as a lawyer and a judge for many years, you are fully aware that all defendants have a fundamental right to counsel, regardless of the crime with which they are charged.  Nonetheless, you chose to air an ad that inappropriately undermines the vital role criminal defense attomeys play in this state’s adversarial system of justice and the basic right of all accused persons to zealous representation.

The ad has also stated:

[Judge Stephens] reversed a jury’s conviction of a burglar with a twelve-page criminal history.  When asked about a crime, Judge Jimbo Stephens stated, “It’s illegal to get caught.”  Vote for the right experience – Judge Sharon Marchman.

The admonishment noted that the ad failed to explain that Judge Stephens had been part of a unanimous panel of judges, that the defendant had been improperly tried by a 6-person jury, rather than the constitutionally and statutorily mandated 12-person jury, and that the 12-page criminal history had not been part of the record on appeal but had been developed by Judge Marchman’s campaign.  Admonishing the judge, the Commission stated:

As an experienced judge, you know that judges are duty-bound to attempt to apply the law faithfully and impartially, regardless of whether a party is particularly sympathetic or unsympathetic, and that any judge, including you, would have been required to reach the same conclusion as Judge Stephens in the . . . case.  Moreover, you also know that a defendant’s criminal record is admissible in a criminal trial only under certain limited circumstances and knew that Mr. Johnston’s criminal history did not and could not play any role in the Second Circuit’s decision in the matter.  Accordingly, your choice to refer to this criminal history could have served no purpose other than to make it appear that Judge Stephens’ decision in this case, which relies strictly on controlling law, was somehow irresponsible or contrary to justice.

The Commission emphasized to the judge:

Your use of this decision as an example of how Judge Stephens does not have the “right experience” to be elected as an appellate judge thus undermines foundational principles of our legal system, has the distinct potential to distort the public’s perception regarding the proper role of judges, and erodes the independence of the judiciary and the public’s confidence in it.  Judges have a duty to be more careful in their express or implied criticism of judicial decisions so as to avoid such potential consequences.

See also Inquiry Concerning Santino, 257 So. 3d 25 (Florida 2018) (removal of judge for campaign ads that accused her opponent of “making a lot of money trying to free Palm Beach County’s worst criminals.  Now he’s running for judge!”).

The Louisiana admonishment also addressed a second ad that stated:  “You can support President Trump and the Republican Party by voting for me, or you can support Bernie Sanders, Jimbo Stephens, and their liberal agenda.”  The Commission found that that ad violated the prohibitions on publicly endorsing another candidate and making speeches on behalf of a political organization or a candidate for public office.

A sampling of recent judicial ethics advisory opinions

  • A judge may observe other judges’ court sessions for educational purposes, informally or as part of a formal court system mentor program.  New York Opinion 2022-28.
  • After a judge admonished an attorney on the record for an inappropriate attempt at humor referencing a client’s ethnicity or national origin, the judge may take further action, but is not required to do so.  New York Opinion 2022-49.
  • A judge may write a law review article reviewing statutory, regulatory, and administrative efforts to address the intersection of domestic violence and child protection in New York and other states if they do not comment on any pending or impending cases.  New York Opinion 2022-41.
  • A judge may permit a law clerk to publish an article in a law journal that argues that the law does not adequately protect employees who are using or have used medical marijuana, but the judge should review the article before it is published to ensure that the clerk’s relationship to the judge, the judge’s court, and the Maryland judiciary is not identified in any way.  Maryland Opinion Request 2022-8.
  • An administrative assistant for a circuit court judge may not work with a state legislator on proposed legislation that would allow a mother to be charged criminally if she uses drugs while pregnant and the baby dies shortly after birth as a result of the drug use.  West Virginia Opinion 2022-15.
  • A judge may co-chair a committee to educate the judiciary on implicit bias through a volunteer court observation project and may meet with other participating judges and committee members to receive feedback from the observers, but may not privately discuss with observers their feedback on the judge’s own court sessions.  New York Opinion 2021-182.
  • Subject to conditions, a judge may attend and watch the Denver PrideFest festival and parade and similar events like Cinco de Mayo, the Marade, and Juneteenth and may march in the Denver PrideFest parade and similar parades with a bar association such as the Colorado LGBT Bar Association.  Colorado Opinion 2022-1.
  • A judge may be a dues-paying member of and serve as an officer or board member of a bar association for lawyers with disabilities but may not participate in its political or campaign efforts or draft amicus briefs for the association.  Colorado Opinion 2022-2.
  • A judge may serve as chair of a bar association subcommittee that seeks to improve racial equity in the court system.  New York Opinion 2022-13.
  • A judge who has volunteered for several years in a non-profit organization’s mentoring program may not provide a testimonial for use in the organization’s marketing materials, including their website, handbook, and social media pages, if there is no limitation on the organization’s use of the testimonial.  New York Opinion 2022-19.
  • Judges who graduated from a university may appear with the university’s retiring president in a photograph published in the university’s newsletter or magazine as long as the judges advise the university not to use the photograph in conjunction with any advertising directed at advancing student enrollment or fundraising.  Maryland Opinion Request 2022-18.
  • A judge is prohibited from serving as a member of the board of directors for the New York Civil Liberties Union.  New York Opinion 2022-22(A).
  • A university may name its Center for Justice and Society after a sitting South Carolina Supreme Court justice, but the justice should not have access to or knowledge of the donors.  The university may contact county bar associations for contributions.  South Carolina Opinion 5-2022.
  • A judge may not advocate with insurance companies on behalf of a family member.  New Hampshire Opinion 2022-1.
  • A judge may continue to serve as one of many class representatives in a federal lawsuit filed before they took the bench.  New York Opinion 2021-188.
  • A judge may not allow their spouse to place a campaign sign for a friend’s city council campaign in the yard of their jointly owned home.  West Virginia Opinion 2022-12.
  • A magistrate may not place a campaign sign in their yard for a family member in their household who is running for office.  West Virginia Opinion 2022-13.
  • To “test the water” about a possible candidacy for a non-judicial municipal office, a judicial official may speak privately, one-one-on with members of a political party’s town committee or other individuals in the community.  Connecticut Informal Opinion 2022-3.

Throwback Thursday

10 years ago this month:

  • The California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly admonished a judge for (1) delays of 320 days, 237 days, and 110 days in deciding 3 matters in less than a year, (2) submitting 11 false salary affidavits, (3) failing as presiding judge to circulate a list of cases under submission, and (4) failing to respond to e-mails inquiring about submitted matters.  In the Matter Concerning Kirihara, Decision and order (California Commission on Judicial Performance May 16, 2012).
  • Based on findings by a Board of Examining Officers supported by the judge’s admissions, the Delaware Court on the Judiciary removed a judge from office for advising a young female attorney in an e-mail how to prepare a memorandum in a case before him and hearing cases involving the attorney after developing and expressing romantic feelings for her.  In re Henriksen (Delaware Court on the Judiciary May 3, 2012).
  • The Illinois Courts Commission suspended a judge for 60 days without pay for striking an unattended parked car, then driving his damaged car from the scene at a high rate of speed, disobeying multiple stop signs, causing a 13-year-old girl to move away from the road quickly to avoid being struck, later causing the police to wait when they arrived at his home, and being less than candid before the Commission.  In re Popejoy, Order (Illinois Courts Commission May 9, 2012).
  • Pursuant to a stipulation and agreement, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a former judge for (1) in an adoption proceeding, failing to return a child to the child’s biological parent, failing to recognize the mother’s right to revoke her consent, failing to provide the unrepresented biological parents with adequate information about obtaining counsel, and injecting the father’s immigration status into the matter and (2) displaying an impatient, undignified, and discourteous demeanor in a custody case.  In the Matter of Poyfair, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct May 4, 2012).

Recent cases

  • The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for posting on his Facebook page a photograph of a litigant’s request for an extension of time because his puppy ate his paperwork. Williams, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct March 21, 2022).
  • The California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly admonished a judge for meeting with 2 police detectives who were being investigated for misconduct in a case over which she had presided and sending 2 letters to the police chief on official court stationery about the matter. In the Matter Concerning Meyer, Decision and order (California Commission on Judicial Performance April 5, 2022).
  • Based on the judge’s retirement and agreement not to serve in judicial office in the state, the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission resolved its investigation of a former judge for conduct that failed to promote public confidence in the judiciary and for failing to be truthful during the investigation. In re Inquiry Concerning Brown, Report of disposition (Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission April 4, 2022).
  • Based on the judge’s retirement and agreement not to serve in judicial office in the state, the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission resolved its investigation of a former magistrate judge; the investigative panel had authorized formal charges alleging that the judge had engaged in ex parte communications and independently investigated the facts in a criminal matter pending in her court and used her judicial status to influence determinations in a criminal matter pending in her court involving a family member. In re Inquiry Concerning Dowling, Report of disposition (Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission April 4, 2022).
  • Following a hearing, the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission removed a judge for (1) numerous actions to exert her influence to affect the outcome of her son’s criminal proceedings; (2) creating and failing to disclose conflicts of interest in the appointment of guardians ad litem and in cases involving certain attorneys; (3) retaliating against family services case workers who advocated actions contrary to her views; (4) using her court staff to administer drug tests; and (5) a lack of candor and misrepresentations to the Commission. In re the Matter of Gordon, Findings of fact, conclusions of law, and final order (Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission April 22, 2022), on appeal.
  • The Louisiana Judiciary Commission publicly admonished a judge for 2 campaign ads, one that criticized her opponent and one that stated that a vote for her showed support for President Trump and the Republican party. Public Admonishment of Marchman (Louisiana Judiciary Commission April 26, 2022).
  • The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct removed a judge from office for engaging in professional misconduct as an attorney as evidenced by 2 orders that suspended him from the practice of law in New York for a total of 24 months. In the Matter of Gonzalez, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 13, 2022).
  • Adopting the findings of the Board of Professional Conduct, based on stipulations, the Ohio Supreme Court suspended a judge for 6 months for berating a litigant for nearly an hour during a status conference after the litigant had criticized him at a board of commissioners meeting for not disqualifying himself from cases in which his daughter appeared as an attorney; allowing his daughter “to continue his line of intemperate interrogation;” and appearing at a commissioners’ meeting to accuse the litigant of “publicly disparaging and slandering him and [his daughter];” the suspension was stayed on the conditions that he commit no further misconduct and complete 6 hours of continuing judicial education. Disciplinary Counsel v. O’Diam (Ohio Supreme Court April 28, 2022).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a former judge for failing to cooperate in the Commission’s investigation of complaints against him. Public Admonition of Nolen (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 7, 2022).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly warned a judge for (1) posting and reposting racial, ethnic, and religious comments and/or memes on social media; (2) issuing peace bond warrants for President Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci based on alleged “threats to commit an offense” against multiple anonymous complainants; and (3) lending the prestige of his judicial office to advance the private interests of a charitable organization he had created and soliciting funds for that organization. Public Warning of Black (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 7, 2022).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for (1) during a protective order hearing, ordering an attorney escorted to the jury box where her bailiff shackled him to a chair and then continuing with the hearing; and (2) just over a week later, having a second attorney escorted to the jury box where her bailiff shackled him to a chair and instructing the attorney’s son, who had arrived to represent him, never to come into her courtroom again. Public Reprimand of Stalder (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 20, 2022).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for his outbursts during the trial in a divorce case and during an ex parte confrontation with one of the lawyers in his chambers; the Commission also ordered the judge to obtain 2 hours of instruction with a mentor. Public Admonition of Wells (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 20, 2022).
  • Pursuant to a stipulation and agreement, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a former part-time judge for donating to the campaign of a mayoral candidate and introducing the candidate at the campaign kick-off rally. In re Bennett, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 22, 2022).
  • Based on a stipulation and agreement, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a judge for reckless driving and telling the arresting officers that an arrest would damage his career. In re Imboden, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 22, 2022).
  • The West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission publicly admonished a magistrate for (1) making statements to a reporter in response to a police captain’s criticism of his bond in a case and a heated exchange during a meeting with police officers about the criticism; (2) swearing at a police officer during a telephone call about the bond in another case; and (3) asking lawyers who appear before him and a bail bondsman to submit letters in support of him to Judicial Disciplinary Counsel. Public Admonishment of Gaujot (West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission April 25, 2022).
  • The West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission publicly admonished a magistrate for (1) when police officers responded to a neighborhood incident, swearing, invoking his position as a magistrate, making a demeaning stereotypical comment about his neighbor’s wife, and denigrating the homeless; and (2) serving as an administrator for a neighborhood watch Facebook page and an unseemly comment by his wife on that page that people thought the magistrate had posted. Public Admonishment of Weiss (West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission April 25, 2022).
  • The West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission publicly admonished a judge for holding 2 correctional officers in contempt because they asked to contact their supervisor before transporting a prisoner to a different jail. Public Admonition of Murensky (West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission April 25, 2022).