Ethics Committee Issues Advice about Book Reviews and Endorsements by Judges
The California Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions (CJEO) has issued advice about whether a judge may review, critique, or comment on legal education books written by others. The committee also advised whether a judge who has not authored or contributed to the book may write a "blurb" to be included on the book’s cover.
In CJEO Expedited Opinion 2022-048, the committee concludes a judge may review, critique, or comment on legal education books or writings in legal publications—such as legal periodicals or newsletters—for educational purposes related to the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice. Review and critique have important academic value and contribute to the improvement of the law, and while a positive review might have an incidental impact on book sales, the primary goal is education rather than marketing or promotion.
However, a judge who has not authored, co-authored, or contributed to the book may not provide a written "blurb" or endorsement to be used on the book’s cover. In this case, the judge’s reputation may be leveraged to promote book sales, which violates the prohibition against lending judicial prestige to advance a person’s financial interests.
“There is a great tradition of judges commenting on books and articles written by others. Robust academic discussion helps further the law and our profession, which is to be encouraged. The purpose of this opinion is to provide guidance on the line between permissible educational discourse and impermissible marketing,” said committee member Justice Judith Haller.
The committee also notes in the opinion that when commenting on legal education books written by others, judges must ensure the substance of their comments are consistent with the entire Code of Judicial Ethics. For example, judges should refrain from improper political commentary or otherwise suggesting bias.
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 advisory opinions on proper judicial conduct pursuant to the California Code of Judicial Ethics and other authorities. CJEO posts its opinions on the CJEO website for the benefit of the bench and the public.