Why study ethics?
So you can pass the test.
So you won’t get in trouble, or get fired.
Is there any other reason?
What you need to know to pass
No ethics questions on the test.
What you need to know to keep
your job and stay out of trouble.
Grounds for Removal
Judge may be removed or censured for
Willful and persistent failure to perform his
Conviction of crime involving moral turpitude
Conduct prejudicial to administration of justice
Done intentionally and knowingly (or with gross
unconcern for the conduct)
Improper and wrong conduct acting in official
In bad faith
Examples—dishonesty, corruption, or knowing
misuse of office, or to accomplish purpose
beyond the legitimate exercise of his or her
Not limited to time in court
Improper sexual activity between judge
and defendant included
Generally criminal charges against judge
will also constitute willful misconduct
Conduct prejudicial to the
administration of justice.
Often taken in good faith, but still appears
to objective observer that conduct is un-
judicial and lowers public esteem for the
Motive doesn’t matter; conduct does
Personal benefit not required
Can’t use inexperience or lack of training
Private matters also covered
Code of Judicial Conduct: Why
Should You Care?
“A violation of the Code of Judicial
Conduct may be deemed conduct
prejudicial to the administration of justice
that brings the judicial office in disrepute,
or willful misconduct in office, or otherwise
as grounds for disciplinary proceedings . .
..” Preamble to Code of Judicial Conduct
Therefore. . .
Violation grounds for
(may) = to the adminis-
of Code removal
tration of justice
So. . . What Does the Code
The Code of Judicial Conduct is divided
into 7 canons.
Set of Rules
Canon, …not cannon
Canon 1 and 2
Canon 1—Uphold integrity and indepen-
dence of the judiciary
Canon 2—Avoid impropriety in all activities
…conduct himself at all times in a manner. . .
…relationships [must not] influence conduct or judgment.
…should not lend prestige of office to advance the
prestige of others, or allow others to convey that they
have special ability to influence him.
A magistrate is married to
a police officer. Can the
magistrate handle cases in
which the officer appears
before him or her?
Canon 2: A judge should . . .
conduct himself at all times in a
manner that promotes public
confidence in the integrity and
impartiality of the judiciary. . .
A judge should not allow his
family, social or other
relationships to influence his
judicial conduct or judgment.
What if instead of being married to the officer, the magistrate
worked in the police department for many years?
You are a close
friend of a local 2. No
banker who is the
head of a selection
committee for a
child of a friend asks
you to recommend
him for the
you say yes?
Canon 2B. [A judge] should not lend the
prestige of his office to advance the
private interests of others . . . A judge
may, based on personal knowledge,
serve as a personal reference or provide
a letter of recommendation.
Same facts with a twist: You are
a close friend of a local banker
who is the head of a selection
committee for a scholarship.
The child of a friend asks you to
recommend him for the
scholarship, and you know the
child well. The bank comes to
court a lot seeking to collect
debts owed it. Should you
refuse to recommend him?
Canon 3—Impartiality and diligence
Judicial duties take precedence over all other
Faithful to the law and maintain professional
competence in it.
Unswayed by partisan interests, public
clamor, fear of criticism.
Order and decorum in court.
Patient, dignified, courteous.
More from Canon 3
Ex parte communications
Comments on merits of pending cases
Impartiality may reasonably be questioned.
Personal bias or prejudice, or personal knowledge
Related within 3rd degree to party, witness, or
person likely to be affected.
You arrive early to small
claims court, as does a
merchant bringing several
collection suits. One of the
plaintiff comes into the
courtroom and sees the two
of you chatting. Have you
violated the Code?
judge should . . . neither
knowingly initiate nor knowingly
consider ex parte communications
concerning a pending
At a Rotary Club meeting, you are approached by a fellow
member who asks for your help with a small claims matter
he has. What do you say?
1. I can’t discuss that with you.
I can’t discuss that here. Come
to my office and we’ll talk about
I’d be happy to provide you with
information about the procedure
in small claims court, but I can’t
give you legal advice.
I’d be happy to provide you with
information about procedure and
whether you have a good case,
but I can’t give you legal advice.
Canons 4 and 5
Outside activities to improve the system or
Don’t do it if it casts doubt on your ability to be
Community activities, but no fundraising
Estates of relatives
A church asks you to serve as the head of its finance
committee. Among the duties of the committee are the
raising of the budget for the church each year. Can you
♦Canon 5B. A judge may participate in civic and
charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon his
impartiality or interfere with the performance of his
judicial duties. A judge may serve as an officer, director,
trustee, or non-legal advisor of an educational, religious,
charitable, fraternal, or civic organization not conducted
for the economic or political advantage of its members,
subject to the following limitations:(2) A judge should not
solicit funds for any educational, religious, charitable,
fraternal, or civic organization, or use or permit the use of
the prestige of his office for that purpose, but he may be
listed as an officer, director or trustee of such an
A local bail bonding company gives each magistrate
a gift certificate to the local mall at Christmas. Can
you accept it?
(4). Neither a judge nor a member of his family residing in
his household should accept a gift, bequest, favor, or loan
from anyone except as follows:
(b) A judge or a member of his family residing in his
household may accept ordinary social hospitality; a gift,
bequest, favor or loan from a relative; a wedding or
engagement gift; a loan from a lending institution . . . or a
scholarship or fellowship awarded on the same terms
applied to other applicants.
(c) A judge or member of his family residing in the
household may accept any other gift, bequest, favor or
loan only if the donor is not a party presently before him.
or other person whose interests have come or are
likely to come before him.
Canon 6—Personal financial reports (N/A)
Canon 7—Political activity
Not clear how it applies
May participate in political party, including
fund-raising function, but
May not publicly endorse candidate for office,
or contribute to individual campaign,
And may not personally fund-raise.
Must resign to run for non-judicial office
The incumbent sheriff is running for re-election, and asks
you to endorse him. Can you?
Is there any other reason?
As a magistrate, you will be confronted
with ethical questions every day—what is
the right thing to do?
Sometimes that will be clear, and
sometimes it won’t.
When it’s not clear, it helps to have
thought about what your overall values
ethos = character
Aristotle described ethical behavior as
behavior directed at the common good.
To know how to behave ethically, one
must have what Aristotle called “practical
wisdom,” which consists of three qualities:
“Important as it is that people should get justice,
it is ever more important that they be made to
feel and see that they are getting it.”