The Judicial Ethics Forum (JEF)

An Academic Discussion of Judicial Ethics, Discipline & Disqualification

Archive for June, 2010

Judicial Ethics on the Campaign Trail

Posted by judicialethicsforum on Monday, June, 21, 2010

The Seventh Circuit weighed in last week on three common judicial ethics rules governing campaigns.  Readers may recall that the Seventh Circuit is not shy about shaking things up in this area.  [See Buckley v. Ill. Jud. Inquiry Bd., 997 F.2d 224, 230 (7th Cir. 1993) (striking down announce clause well before White came along).]  To misappropriate Monroe Freedman’s famous term from another context, this new opinion is the latest in the growing “trilemma” of reconciling the First Amendment, Judicial Elections, and Impartiality (including its due process element).  The rules at issue this time around had prohibited three campaign practices: (1) joining a party; (2) endorsing partisan candidates; and (3) directly soliciting campaign contributions.  According to the court, this is how each rule fares, respectively: (1) unconstitutional; (2) constitutional; and (3) constitutional.  The full opinion, with dissent, can be found here (Siefert v. Alexander).  Readers may recall that the district court in early 2009 struck down all three prohibitions under First Amendment strict scrutiny analysis. 

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Posted in Canon 4, Canon 5, Judicial Campaigns | 2 Comments »

New Works in the Articles Archive

Posted by judicialethicsforum on Tuesday, June, 1, 2010

N.B. Several new articles — primarily addressing Caperton and its aftermath — appear on the Articles page.   

Posted in Judicial Ethics Generally | Leave a Comment »

New Scholarship: McKoski on the Appearance of Impropriety Standard

Posted by judicialethicsforum on Tuesday, June, 1, 2010

Judge Ray McKoski has just published a thorough work on the ever-controversial appearance of impropriety standard.  Here is the abstract: 

Judges are required to forego a litany of professional and personal behaviors deemed to be inconsistent with the role of the neutral magistrate. For example, codes of judicial conduct prohibit ex parte communications, the misuse of office, public commentary on prohibited topics, and participation in certain social, religious, and political activities.

In addition to specific rules barring actual improprieties, it is commonly believed that a broader disciplinary standard is necessary to fully safeguard the public’s faith in the judiciary. As a result, under virtually every state judicial code, discipline may be imposed upon a judge for conduct which may not violate a particular rule but which is thought to create “an appearance of impropriety.”

This Article examines the disciplinary use of the appearance of impropriety standard from a theoretical and practical standpoint. The history and development of the standard is explored together with the most debated aspect of the rule—whether the “appearance of impropriety” prohibition can survive a vagueness challenge. The inescapable conclusion is that it cannot. A cost-benefit analysis further discloses that the disadvantages of the rule clearly outweigh its oft-touted but, nevertheless, illusory benefits. It is proposed that the use of the appearance standard as a disciplinary rule should be discontinued or, in the alternative, that a limiting construction should be placed on the “appearance of impropriety” thereby supplying the specificity needed to meet due process requirements.

Raymond J. McKoski, Judicial Discipline and the Appearance of Impropriety: What the Public Sees Is What the Judge Gets, 94 Minn. L. Rev. 1914 (2010).

Posted in Canon 1, Canon 2 | Leave a Comment »