News Release

Ethics Committee Adopts Opinion about Court Invitations to Outside Speakers

Final opinion follows public comment and provides guidance for judges on ethical considerations when inviting outside speakers and groups to give educational presentations to the court
Jul 19, 2023

After considering public comments, the California Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions (CJEO) has adopted a final opinion about factors judges should consider when inviting, or using court resources to host, outside educational speakers, and groups.

In CJEO Formal Opinion 2023-023, the committee advises that, consistent with the Code of Judicial Ethics, courts may invite outside speakers and groups to give educational presentations provided:

  • the presentation does not undermine judicial impartiality;
  • speakers represent a balance of interests and viewpoints;
  • the presentation would not lend judicial prestige to advance the outside speaker’s interests;
  • the presentation does not include improper political activity; and
  • the outside speaker is not involved, or likely to become involved, in litigation before the court.

The opinion explains that by including a balance of educational speakers, the court can protect itself against the impression any one speaker or group holds special influence.  The opinion also advises caution when inviting speakers who have made political statements on partisan issues or who are strongly associated with certain political viewpoints, as it may undermine the appearance of impartiality.

Being exposed to a variety of educational speakers with different perspectives helps judges become better decision-makers. However, judges also have a responsibility to assure the public that the judiciary is fair, impartial, and not subject to special influence. This opinion provides helpful parameters to ensure educational programs meet both of these objectives,” said committee chair Justice Ronald B. Robie.

The committee posted and invited public comment on a draft formal opinion in April. The committee adopted the final opinion after receiving and considering public comments, which may be viewed on the CJEO website. 

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, two retired judges, 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 advisory opinions on proper judicial conduct pursuant to the California Code of Judicial Ethics and other authorities. CJEO’s website includes advisory opinions, resources dedicated to specific judicial assignments and issues, and extensive judicial ethics tools and resource materials for the benefit of the bench and the public.