The California Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions (CJEO) invites public comment on a draft formal opinion about the extent to which judges may consult with other judges on a case.
In CJEO Draft Formal Opinion 2022-020, the committee concludes judges may consult with other judges on factual and legal issues to assist in carrying out judicial functions, if the deciding judge retains sole discretion over the decision and is not improperly influenced by others.
The California Code of Judicial Ethics (code) specifically permits judges to consult with other judges. The code does not define consultation, but as the draft formal opinion explains, courts have interpreted it broadly.
The committee thought it was important to provide guidance on the scope of
permissible judicial consultations so that judges feel comfortable consulting with their colleagues on case-related issues. Consulting with other judges is consistent with ethical decision-making and helps judges reach the correct result,” said committee chair Justice Ronald Robie.
While consultations are generally permissible, the draft formal opinion advises judges to make reasonable efforts to avoid facts outside the record in their own matters. To the extent judges are inadvertently exposed to such facts, however, the committee explains judges can be trusted to disregard those facts just as they would any other inadmissible evidence.
The committee’s Invitation to Comment is posted on CJEO’s recently updated website. Comments are due by Oct. 24, 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, 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 recently updated its website where it posts its advisory opinions, offers resources dedicated to specific judicial assignments and issues, and provides extensive judicial ethics tools and resource materials for the benefit of the bench and the public.