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Connecticut Committee on Judicial Ethics
Informal Opinion Summaries

2012-12 (June 1, 2012)
Website; Name, Use of
Rules 1.2, 1.3, 2.10, 2.11 & 3.1
 
Issue: May a Judicial Official maintain a personal webpage on which the Judicial Official’s biographical information, articles, books, courses, talks and lectures are listed? The webpage would be accessible primarily through one or more websites maintained by academic institutions at which the Judicial Official teaches or independently. If it is permissible for the Judicial Official to maintain a personal webpage, may the webpage contain (a) information identifying the Judicial Official’s judicial status and (b) links to the websites of publishers of the Judicial Official’s writings and to online book sellers such as Amazon.com where the Judicial Official’s books are described and sold?

Applicable Rules: Rule 1.2 of Code states that a judge “should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the … impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.  The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge violated this Code or engaged in other conduct that reflects adversely on the judge’s honesty, impartiality, temperament, or fitness to serve as a judge.”

Rule 1.3 of the Code states that a judge “shall not use or attempt to use the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or others or allow others to do so.”

Rule 2.10 of the Code prohibits judges from making any public statement “that might reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or to impair the fairness of a matter pending or impending in any court or make any non-public statement that might substantially interfere with a fair trial or hearing.”

Rule 2.11 of the Code requires disqualification of a judge in “any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned including, but not limited to, the following circumstances… (4) The judge has made a public statement, other than in a court proceeding, judicial decision, or opinion that commits or appears to commit the judge to reach a particular result or rule in a particular way in the proceeding or controversy.”

Rule 3.1 of the Code concerns extrajudicial activities and sets forth general limitations on such activities, such as not using court premises, staff or resources, except for incidental use or for activities that concern the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice unless otherwise permitted by law and not participating in activities that (1) interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties, (2) lead to frequent disqualification, (3) appear to a reasonable person to undermine the judge’s independence, integrity or impartiality, or (4) appear to a reasonable person to be coercive.


Response: Based upon the information provided, the Committee concluded that the Judicial Official may maintain a personal webpage, accessible through an academic institution’s website or independently, which contains biographical information, identifies the Judicial Official’s judicial status, and lists the Judicial Official’s articles, books, courses, talks and lectures, subject to the following conditions:

(1) the Judicial Official should retain the right to review and pre-approve the use of any biographical information about the Judicial Official listed on any personal webpage (see Rule 1.3);

(2) the Judicial Official should ensure that the personal webpage does not include comments about any pending or impending matters (see Rule 2.10);

(3) the Judicial Official should ensure that the personal webpage does not contain content which would cast doubt on the Judicial Official’s impartiality or otherwise reflect any predisposition in particular cases (see Rules 2.11(a), 3.1(3)); and

(4) the Judicial Official monitors the webpage to ensure that it does not link to commercial or advocacy group websites, including links to commercial websites for the primary purpose of selling books. Because a book may be sold by numerous vendors, a link to a single or select vendor such as Amazon.com could raise questions concerning preferential treatment of vendors. It is, however, permissible for the Judicial Official webpage to include a link to a publisher’s website, specifically to a publisher’s webpages that describe the Judicial Official’s books or other writings. In general, the Judicial Official should exercise caution in choosing website links because of the potential that such choices could be perceived as an endorsement of the contents and/or owner of such other website.

Committee on Judicial Ethics

 


 

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