For Public Comment: Attending Law Firm Celebrations
The California Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions (CJEO) invites public comment on a draft formal opinion addressing whether a judicial officer may attend a celebration hosted by a law firm.
In CJEO Draft Formal Opinion 2023-024, the committee generally advises judicial officers not to attend law firm celebrations because doing so could violate several canons in the Code of Judicial Ethics, including:
- the prohibitions against suggesting judicial bias or special influence over a judicial officer;
- the prohibition against lending prestige to advance someone’s pecuniary or personal interests; and
- the prohibition against accepting gifts, absent certain exceptions.
The judicial officer’s presence at such celebrations, the committee explains, may suggest the judicial officer has a special relationship with or endorses the law firm, which may undermine public confidence in the judicial officer’s fairness in cases where the law firm appears.
However, the committee said there may be exceptions. For example, it is generally permissible to attend an adult child’s or spouse’s law firm celebration because the judicial officer would already be disqualified from hearing matters involving the law firm and exceptions to the gift prohibition apply. There is also no prohibition against attending bar association events sponsored by law firms.
Judges often receive invitations to attend different types of celebrations and events hosted by law firms. This opinion provides helpful guidance regarding the canons that may be implicated and advises a cautious but practical approach,” said committee member Judge Erica Yew.
The committee’s Invitation to Comment is posted on CJEO’s recently updated website. Comments are due by July 10, and may be submitted by CJEO’s online comment form, by email to Judicial.Ethics@jud.ca.gov, or by mail to:
The Supreme Court of California Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions
350 McAllister Street
San Francisco, California 94102
All comments submitted to CJEO may be posted on CJEO’s website for public review unless clearly marked as confidential.
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.