Rules and guidelines governing judicial behavior

Judicial Code of Conduct

The code of conduct of the Judicial Conference of the United States applies to all federal judges but is only advisory and nonbinding on Supreme Court justices. The rules explicitly permit judges to accept and participate in awards programs and to receive certain benefit from legal publishers. Below are the official canons, followed by excerpts of commentary provided by the Judicial Conference.

Canon 1: A judge should uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary. ("Public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary is maintained by the adherence of each judge to this responsibility.")

Canon 2: A judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities. ("A judge must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny. A judge must therefore accept restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and willingly.")

Canon 3: A judge should perform the duties of the office impartially and diligently. ("A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to instances in which the judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party ... ")

Canon 4: A judge may engage in extrajudicial activities to improve the law, the legal system and the administration of justice. ("A judge, subject to the proper performance of judicial duties, may engage in ... law-related activities, if in doing so the judge does not cast reasonable doubt on the capacity to decide impartially any issue that may come before the judge.")

Canon 5: A judge should regulate extrajudicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with judicial duties. ("Complete separation of a judge from extrajudicial activities is neither possible nor wise; a judge should not be isolated from the society in which the judge lives. The changing nature of some organizations and of their relationship to the law makes it necessary for a judge regularly to reexamine the activities of each organization with which the judge is affiliated to determine if it is proper for the judge to continue the judge's relationship with it. For example, in many jurisdictions charitable hospitals are now more frequently in court than in the past.")

Canon 6: A judge should regularly file reports of compensation received for law-related and extrajudicial activities. ("A judge may receive compensation and reimbursement of expenses for the law-related and extra-judicial activities permitted by this Code, if the source of such payments does not give the appearance of influencing the judge in the judge's judicial duties or otherwise give the appearance of impropriety...").

U.S. Code

Any justice, judge or magistrate of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.
Sharon Schmickle and Tom Hamburger
Washington Bureau Correspondents

© 1995 Star Tribune

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