SAN FRANCISCO—The California Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions (CJEO) invites public comment on a draft opinion on whether a judge may give an educational presentation to a specialty bar association, such as a district attorney or public defender association.
The CJEO Draft Formal Opinion advises that educational presentations to specialty bar associations are permitted, but a judge must consider whether the audience or presentation content creates an appearance of bias, an appearance of influence, or otherwise violates the canons.
The draft opinion advises that a judge must be equally available to give educational presentations to audiences with opposing interests or views and ensure the frequency of presentations before a particular specialty bar association or type of association does not create an appearance of bias.
The draft opinion also advises that a judge’s presentation must be neutral, presented from a judicial perspective, and avoid coaching or providing a tactical advantage to the audience. A judge should be able to give the same presentation to audience members that represent opposing or competing interests.
The draft opinion further advises that a judge review promotional materials describing the presentation before they are circulated to make sure they do not create an appearance of bias or influence and accurately reflect the neutral, educational nature of the presentation. If not, the judge has a duty to take corrective action.
The draft opinion and invitation to comment are posted on the committee’s website. The deadline for comment is May 15.
The committee invites the public to comment on this draft advisory opinion. All comments submitted to the committee are confidential communications and precluded from disclosure unless confidentiality is waived. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 9.80(h); CJEO Internal Operating Rules and Procedures, rule 5(b), (e).) Those comments submitted with a waiver of confidentiality will be posted for public view on the CJEO website at the close of the comment period. All comments the committee receives will be carefully considered by the CJEO members when finalizing and approving the CJEO Formal Opinion.
After considering the public’s comments on the draft opinion, the committee will decide whether to publish an opinion in final form. Comments are due by May 15 and may be submitted in any of the following ways:
- Online using this Comment Form;
- By email to Judicial.Ethics@jud.ca.gov; or
- By mailing comments to: Ms. Nancy Black, Committee Counsel, The California Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions, 350 McAllister Street, San Francisco, California 94102.
CJEO is an independent committee appointed by the Supreme Court to help inform the judiciary and the public concerning judicial ethics topics. CJEO was established as part of the court’s constitutional responsibility to guide the conduct of judges and judicial candidates (Cal. Const., art. VI, § 18, subd. (m)). In making appointments to serve on CJEO, the court selects members of the bench with a strong background in judicial ethics and diverse courtroom experience. The current 12 CJEO members are justices, judges, a commissioner, and a retired bench officer who have served in courts of various sizes throughout the state.
CJEO publishes formal opinions, issues confidential informal opinions, and provides oral advice on proper judicial conduct pursuant to the California Code of Judicial Ethics and other authorities. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 9.80(e)(1).) CJEO acts independently of the Supreme Court, the Commission on Judicial Performance, the Judicial Council, the Administrative Office of the Courts, and all other entities. (Rule 9.80(b).)