judicial ethics

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Judicial ethics is part of the larger legal category of legal ethics. Judicial ethics consists of the standards and norms that bear on judges and covers such matters as how to maintain independence, impartiality, and avoid impropriety.

Disciplinary actions for infractions of the rules of conduct by state judges are typically controlled by a state judicial commission. All states have established such an agency or commission either by statute or by amendment to the state constitution (see Arizona's Article 6.1). Their responsibility is to deal with complaints of judicial misconduct. Most were established during the past 30 years.

If a complaint directed to the judicial commission passes the screening and deposition phases, it is investigated and a trial-like hearing is instituted. Judicial committees typically have the power to sanction a judge and to require a judge to retire or resign. Some commissions, upon a plea of guilty or no contest, are authorized to make a finding of criminal guilt punishable as a felony under state or federal law. In general, commission findings are appealable to state courts.

Federal Material

  • Code of Conduct for United States Judges
Federal Statutes
  • 28 U.S.C. 331 - Judicial Conference
  • 28 U.S.C. 372 - Judicial Discipline

State Material

State Commissions
  • N.Y. State Comm'n on Judicial Conduct
  • Ariz. Commission on Judicial Conduct
  • Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board
  • Judicial Conduct Comm'ns from Other States
State Codes of Judicial Conduct
  • N.Y. Rules Governing Judicial Conduct
  • Cal. Code of Judicial Ethics (PDF)
  • Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct
  • Other States’ Court Rules

Key Internet Sources

  • Federal Judiciary Homepage
  • American Judicature Society
  • National Center for State Courts

[Last updated in June of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]