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Connecticut Committee on Judicial Ethics
Informal Opinion Summaries

2013-11 (March 22, 2013)
Educational Activities;
Rules 1.2, 2.10 & 3.1

 
Issue: May a Judicial Official serve as a coach for a middle school mock trial team?
 
Response: Rule 1.2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct 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 1.2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct 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 3.1 of the Code provides that subject to certain conditions a judge “may engage in extrajudicial activities except as prohibited by law.” The rule’s commentary encourages judges to participate in appropriate extrajudicial activities and observes that “[j]udges are uniquely qualified to engage in extrajudicial activities that concern the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice, such as by speaking, writing, teaching, or participating in scholarly research projects. In addition, judges are permitted and encouraged to engage in educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic extrajudicial activities not conducted for profit, even when the activities do not involve the law.” Rule 3.1, Comment (1).

Based on the facts presented, which are substantially similar to those presented in JE 2012-26, the Committee unanimously concluded that the Judicial Official may provide assistance to the middle school mock trial team subject to the following conditions:

    (1) The Judicial Official’s participation does not interfere with the proper performance of the Judicial Official’s duties nor create grounds upon which the Judicial Official may have to recuse him/herself;

    (2) The Judicial Official does not give opinions that would cast doubt on the Judicial Official’s impartiality or indicate that the Judicial Official has a predisposition with respect to a particular case; and

    (3) The Judicial Official should refrain from inappropriate comment (as indicated below) about pending or impending matters.
Although Rule 2.10 restricts a judge from making “a 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 nonpublic statement that might substantially interfere with a fair trial or hearing”, a judge who is engaged in teaching is not precluded in a classroom setting from identifying and describing pending or impending cases that are relevant to the subject matter under discussion because statements in that setting could not reasonably be expected to affect or substantially interfere with the outcome of any proceeding under Rule 2.10(a). The Judicial Official should, however, refrain from making unnecessarily controversial statements about such pending cases.

Committee on Judicial Ethics

 


 

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