Justice Not Required to Disqualify When Acquainted with Amicus Members
The Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions (CJEO) advised that an appellate justice had no obligation to disqualify because of a prior professional acquaintanceship with leaders of an association that filed an amicus curiae brief.
In a summary of oral advice issued to an appellate justice posted Monday, the committee explained that an amicus curiae is not a party in appellate proceedings, but rather a person or entity permitted to file a brief that may help the court in deciding the matter. The committee relied on its earlier advice to an appellate justice that a reasonable person would not doubt impartiality in deciding the interests of the parties in circumstances where the justice was a member of an organization that had filed an amicus brief. (CJEO Oral Advice Summary 2014-005, p. 3)
In similar circumstances where an amicus brief was filed by associations whose leaders the justice is acquainted with, the committee concluded that greetings at events and lunches over two years ago with people the justice knew professionally before taking the bench are not social relationships that would otherwise cause reasonable doubt as to impartiality.
CJEO summarizes the oral advice it provides and posts the summaries on the CJEO website for the benefit of the bench and the public.