Judicial Conduct Reporter

The Judicial Conduct Reporter, published quarterly, summarizes recent decisions and advisory opinions, reports developments in judicial discipline, and includes articles on judicial ethics and discipline procedure topics.  The winter issue (the first one in the year) reviews the previous year in judicial ethics and discipline:  reporting on discipline statistics, summarizing all cases in which judges were removed, and reviewing the top stories.

Most recent issue

Spring 2024

  • Representing Family
    The code of judicial conduct prohibits full-time judges from practicing law but has an exception that allows judges to “give legal advice to and draft or review documents for a member of the judge’s family” without charge and without serving as a lawyer in any forum.  Judges have been disciplined for representing family members under circumstances beyond the limited scope of this exception.  Numerous judicial ethics opinions advise judges on how much they can do for a family member who asks them for help on a legal issue and when they need “to resist the human impulse to assist family members.”
  • Candidate Questions
    This article discusses the First Amendment challenges to the prohibition on judicial candidates making pledges, promises, and commitments.  It also summarizes judicial ethics opinions that have analyzed whether the clause allows judicial candidates to respond to the questionnaires often sent to candidates by issue advocacy or community groups.
  • Recent Cases
    • Abuses of power:  A North Carolina judge was suspended for 120 days without pay for (1) in a call to a magistrate’s office, using her judicial title to inquire about the custody status of her son, yelling at the magistrate, and demanding a bond reduction and (2) demanding that a courtroom be vacated so that she could use it, resulting in over 100 cases being continued.
    • The judicial “high road”:  An Ohio judge was sanctioned for an exchange with a defendant that was contrary to his duty to exercise fair and impartial judgment and to treat litigants with patience, courtesy, and dignity.
    • Internet search:  A Tennessee judge was reprimanded for using the internet to research the value of property at issue in a case.
    • Detesting the law:  A Tennessee judge was reprimanded for (1) expressing his animosity toward the bail system at a county commission meeting and (2) raising his voice at a police sergeant and being sarcastic about a warrant he had prepared.
  • Failure to respond to judicial discipline complaints
    A judge’s failure to file an answer to a formal complaint or charges in judicial disciplinary proceedings has different consequences in different jurisdictions.

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