SAN FRANCISCO—The California Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions (CJEO) adopts Formal Opinion 2018-012, which provides advice and guidance to judges about giving educational presentations to specialty bar associations.
In the opinion, the committee advises that a judge may speak about and teach legal subject matters through specialty bar associations, subject to the requirements of the Code of Judicial Ethics. These requirements include that a judge avoid creating an appearance of bias and avoid an appearance that the specialty bar association is in a special position to influence the judge.
To maintain an appearance of impartiality, the 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 opinion also advises a judge should be able to give the same presentation to audience members that represent opposing or competing interests. The presentation must be neutral, presented from a judicial perspective, and avoid coaching or providing a tactical advantage that would benefit the members of one specialty bar association to the disadvantage of members of another.
The opinion further advises that a judge should inform event organizers of the judge’s ethical obligations and request to review promotional materials describing the presentation before they are circulated. If the promotional materials or title of the presentation create an appearance of bias or influence or fail to accurately reflect the neutral, educational nature of the presentation, the judge has a duty to take corrective action. Corrective action may include reprinting corrected materials or giving an oral disclosure at the presentation.
"Judges are uniquely qualified to contribute to the improvement of the law through teaching, including at specialty bar events. This opinion provides practical guidance to ensure a judge complies with the Code of Judicial Ethics when giving educational presentations.”
Judge Curtis E.A. Karnow
Superior Court of San Francisco County
The committee previously invited the public to comment on this advisory opinion in draft form. The comments submitted with a waiver of confidentiality are posted for public view on the CJEO website. CJEO Formal Opinion 2018-012 contains modifications adopted by the committee after carefully considering the comments received.
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, and all other entities. (Rule 9.80(b).)