After considering public comment, the California Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions (CJEO) has adopted a final opinion on whether a judicial officer may accept an invitation to attend a celebration for a for-profit law firm.
In CJEO Formal Opinion 2023-024, the committee advises that, consistent with the Code of Judicial Ethics, a judicial officer should not accept an invitation—in this case, to a law firm’s 50th anniversary celebration at the law firm office to include free food and beverage—as it could likely violate several canons in the Code of Judicial Ethics, including prohibitions against:
- suggesting bias or that anyone has a special position of influence over the judicial officer;
- lending judicial prestige to advance a person’s pecuniary or personal interests; and
- accepting gifts absent certain exceptions.
While there may be special circumstances to dictate a different conclusion, the committee advises judicial officers to ensure the law firm does not use their position to lend prestige to the law firm and to guard against the appearance of bias or impropriety.
Judges must find a careful balance between complying with their ethical obligations and ensuring that they do not become completely isolated from the communities that they serve. This will include weighing the need for social engagement against the utmost importance of maintaining the integrity, impartiality, and independence of the judiciary,” said CJEO member and subcommittee chair Judge Erica R Yew.
The committee posted and invited public comment on a draft formal opinion in May. The committee adopted the final opinion after receiving and considering public comments, which may be viewed on the CJEO website.
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.