California Adopts Judicial Ethics Changes

By Robyn Hagan Cain on November 30, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Earlier this month, the California Supreme Court announced that the state's justices had unanimously adopted amendments to the California Code of Judicial Ethics based upon the recommendations of the court's Advisory Committee on the Code of Judicial Ethics.

The changes take effect January 1, 2013.

The amendments address:

  • Campaign contributions in judicial elections
  • Conduct by candidates for judicial office (including incumbent judges)
  • Ex parte communications
  • Definitions of impartiality, integrity, impropriety, and independence
  • Disqualification of judges who make extrajudicial statements committing themselves to reach a particular result.

During the past three years, the advisory committee thoroughly examined the existing code and considered a variety of issues, including the recommendations from the Commission for Impartial Courts (CIC), the revised model code, and cases and authorities to which the code has application. The committee accepted two rounds of public comments on the proposed revisions.

The California Judges Association, Commission on Judicial Performance, individual judicial officers and attorneys, the American Bar Association, the Los Angeles County Superior Court, the Alliance of California Judges, and others provided comments.

The core tenets underlying the amendments are to promote public confidence in and to ensure the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and to provide useful guidance to California's judicial officers and candidates for judicial office as they serve on the bench or stand for election.

The California Supreme Court notes that the new California Code of Judicial Ethics includes important clarifications regarding settlement conferences, gifts, honoraria, and reimbursements, ex parte communications, disqualification of judges, judges' comments on pending litigation, and definitions.

A copy of the code -- with handy strikethrough changes -- is available on the California Courts website.

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