Ethics Committee Issues Advice About Judicial Membership in Law-Related Organizations
The Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions (CJEO) issued advice for judges serving or who will serve on the California Access to Justice Commission or the Child Welfare Council, both statewide organizations working toward systemic improvements in the courts.
In an advisory opinion posted on the committee’s website, the committee concludes that service in either organization is permitted by the Code of Judicial Ethics and encouraged by the Standards of Judicial Administration, which promote judicial involvement in activities related to improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration or justice.
In CJEO Expedited Opinion 2021-043, the committee said judges may serve as members of law-related organizations provided they follow other code requirements, such as ensuring public confidence in the judiciary and avoiding involvement in partisan matters. The California Access to Justice Commission seeks to improve court access for low-income, non-English speaking, and rural litigants. The Child Welfare Council is the advisory body responsible for improving collaboration between the courts and other agencies that serve children and families in the child welfare and foster care systems.
Judges may engage in extrajudicial activities related to the law provided those activities do not suggest bias or undermine public confidence in the judiciary. The California Access to Justice Commission and Child Welfare Council are both organizations devoted to enhancing the legal system and services for court users. Judicial participation in these pursuits is necessary and encouraged,” said Justice Douglas Miller, committee vice-chair.
The committee also notes, however, that judges must draw the distinction between appropriate involvement in activities related to the law and inappropriate involvement in broader policy or political matters when deciding whether to serve as members of governmental bodies or organizations.
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.