A state Supreme Court committee issued advice on whether a judge may ethically serve as a member of a governmental task force created to address hate crimes with a broad agenda that includes legal, educational, social, and policy reforms.
In an advisory opinion posted on the committee’s website, the Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions (CJEO) concludes that a judge may not serve as a member of a governmental task force when the stated purposes are so broad and varied that a judge cannot reasonably limit participation to those topics within the judicial branch’s purview.
In CJEO Expedited Opinion 2021-041, the committee explains that judges may serve as members of governmental bodies provided that membership does not constitute holding public office, which is constitutionally prohibited, and involvement is limited to topics concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice.
The ethics rules specifically allow judges to assist other branches of government in areas that concern the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice. However, it is important for judges to know the boundaries of ethical participation to preserve public confidence in the independence and impartiality of the judiciary,” said Justice Douglas Miller, committee vice-chair.
The committee also notes a judge may ethically support the task force in other ways, such as by appearing before, providing information to, or advising the task force on issues directly relating to the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice.
About the Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions (CJEO)
The Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions is a 12-member advisory committee that includes appellate justices, trial court judges, a retired judge, and a commissioner. The committee is appointed and authorized by the California Supreme Court, but its work is independent of the court, the Judicial Council, and all other entities. Its opinions are advisory and do not necessarily reflect the views of the California Supreme Court or any other entity.
The committee issues formal, informal, and expedited opinions on proper judicial conduct pursuant to the California Code of Judicial Ethics and other authorities. CJEO posts its expedited opinions (formerly known as oral advice summaries) on the CJEO website for the benefit of the bench and the public.