A JUDGE SHOULD PERFORM THE DUTIES OF THE OFFICE FAIRLY, IMPARTIALLY AND DILIGENTLY
Back to Code of Conduct for United States Judges
The duties of judicial office take precedence over all other activities. In performing the duties prescribed by law, the judge should adhere to the following standards:
(A) Adjudicative Responsibilities.
(1) A judge should be faithful to, and maintain professional competence in, the law and should not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism.
(2) A judge should hear and decide matters assigned, unless disqualified, and should maintain order and decorum in all judicial proceedings.
(3) A judge should be patient, dignified, respectful, and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity. A judge should require similar conduct of those subject to the judge’s control, including lawyers to the extent consistent with their role in the adversary process.
(4) A judge should accord to every person who has a legal interest in a proceeding, and that person’s lawyer, the full right to be heard according to law. Except as set out below, a judge should not initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications or consider other communications concerning a pending or impending matter that are made outside the presence of the parties or their lawyers. If a judge receives an unauthorized ex parte communication bearing on the substance of a matter, the judge should promptly notify the parties of the subject matter of the communication and allow the parties an opportunity to respond, if requested. A judge may:
(a) initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications as authorized by law;
(b) when circumstances require it, permit ex parte communication for scheduling, administrative, or emergency purposes, but only if the ex parte communication does not address substantive matters and the judge reasonably believes that no party will gain a procedural, substantive, or tactical advantage as a result of the ex parte communication;
(c) obtain the written advice of a disinterested expert on the law, but only after giving advance notice to the parties of the person to be consulted and the subject matter of the advice and affording the parties reasonable opportunity to object and respond to the notice and to the advice received; or
(d) with the consent of the parties, confer separately with the parties and their counsel in an effort to mediate or settle pending matters.
(5) A judge should dispose promptly of the business of the court.
(6) A judge should not make public comment on the merits of a matter pending or impending in any court. A judge should require similar restraint by court personnel subject to the judge’s direction and control. The prohibition on public comment on the merits does not extend to public statements made in the course of the judge’s official duties, to explanations of court procedures, or to scholarly presentations made for purposes of legal education.
(B) Administrative Responsibilities.
(1) A judge should diligently discharge administrative responsibilities, maintain professional competence in judicial administration, and facilitate the performance of the administrative responsibilities of other judges and court personnel.
(2) A judge should not direct court personnel to engage in conduct on the judge’s behalf or as the judge’s representative when that conduct would contravene the Code if undertaken by the judge.
(3) A judge should exercise the power of appointment fairly and only on the basis of merit, avoiding unnecessary appointments, nepotism, and favoritism. A judge should not approve compensation of appointees beyond the fair value of services rendered.
(4) A judge with supervisory authority over other judges should take reasonable measures to ensure that they perform their duties timely and effectively.
(5) A judge should take appropriate action upon learning of reliable evidence indicating the likelihood that a judge’s conduct contravened this Code or a lawyer violated applicable rules of professional conduct.
(1) 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:
(a) the judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party, or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding;
(b) the judge served as a lawyer in the matter in controversy, or a lawyer with whom the judge previously practiced law served during such association as a lawyer concerning the matter, or the judge or lawyer has been a material witness;
(c) the judge knows that the judge, individually or as a fiduciary, or the judge’s spouse or minor child residing in the judge’s household, has a financial interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding, or any other interest that could be affected substantially by the outcome of the proceeding;
(d) the judge or the judge’s spouse, or a person related to either within the third degree of relationship, or the spouse of such a person is:
(i) a party to the proceeding, or an officer, director, or trustee of a party;
(ii) acting as a lawyer in the proceeding;
(iii) known by the judge to have an interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding; or
(iv) to the judge’s knowledge likely to be a material witness in the proceeding;
(e) the judge has served in governmental employment and in that capacity participated as a judge (in a previous judicial position), counsel, advisor, or material witness concerning the proceeding or has expressed an opinion concerning the merits of the particular case in controversy.
(2) A judge should keep informed about the judge’s personal and fiduciary financial interests and make a reasonable effort to keep informed about the personal financial interests of the judge’s spouse and minor children residing in the judge’s household.
(3) For the purposes of this section:
(a) the degree of relationship is calculated according to the civil law system; the following relatives are within the third degree of relationship: parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, great grandparent, great grandchild, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, niece, and nephew; the listed relatives include whole and half blood relatives and most step relatives;
(b) “fiduciary” includes such relationships as executor, administrator, trustee, and guardian;
(c) “financial interest” means ownership of a legal or equitable interest, however small, or a relationship as director, advisor, or other active participant in the affairs of a party, except that:
(i) ownership in a mutual or common investment fund that holds securities is not a “financial interest” in such securities unless the judge participates in the management of the fund;
(ii) an office in an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization is not a “financial interest” in securities held by the organization;
(iii) the proprietary interest of a policyholder in a mutual insurance company, or a depositor in a mutual savings association, or a similar proprietary interest, is a “financial interest” in the organization only if the outcome of the proceeding could substantially affect the value of the interest;
(iv) ownership of government securities is a “financial interest” in the issuer only if the outcome of the proceeding could substantially affect the value of the securities;
(d) “proceeding” includes pretrial, trial, appellate review, or other stages of litigation.
(4) Notwithstanding the preceding provisions of this Canon, if a judge would be disqualified because of a financial interest in a party (other than an interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome), disqualification is not required if the judge (or the judge’s spouse or minor child) divests the interest that provides the grounds for disqualification.
(D) Remittal of Disqualification. Instead of withdrawing from the proceeding, a judge disqualified by Canon 3C(1) may, except in the circumstances specifically set out in subsections (a) through (e), disclose on the record the basis of disqualification. The judge may participate in the proceeding if, after that disclosure, the parties and their lawyers have an opportunity to confer outside the presence of the judge, all agree in writing or on the record that the judge should not be disqualified, and the judge is then willing to participate. The agreement should be incorporated in the record of the proceeding.
Canon 3A(3). The duty to hear all proceedings fairly and with patience is not inconsistent with the duty to dispose promptly of the business of the court. Courts can be efficient and businesslike while being patient and deliberate.
The duty under Canon 2 to act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary applies to all the judge’s activities, including the discharge of the judge’s adjudicative and administrative responsibilities. The duty to be respectful includes the responsibility to avoid comment or behavior that could reasonably be interpreted as harassment, prejudice or bias.
Canon 3A(4). The restriction on ex parte communications concerning a proceeding includes communications from lawyers, law teachers, and others who are not participants in the proceeding. A judge may consult with other judges or with court personnel whose function is to aid the judge in carrying out adjudicative responsibilities. A judge should make reasonable efforts to ensure that law clerks and other court personnel comply with this provision.
A judge may encourage and seek to facilitate settlement but should not act in a manner that coerces any party into surrendering the right to have the controversy resolved by the courts.
Canon 3A(5). In disposing of matters promptly, efficiently, and fairly, a judge must demonstrate due regard for the rights of the parties to be heard and to have issues resolved without unnecessary cost or delay. A judge should monitor and supervise cases to reduce or eliminate dilatory practices, avoidable delays, and unnecessary costs.
Prompt disposition of the court’s business requires a judge to devote adequate time to judicial duties, to be punctual in attending court and expeditious in determining matters under submission, and to take reasonable measures to ensure that court personnel, litigants, and their lawyers cooperate with the judge to that end.
Canon 3A(6). The admonition against public comment about the merits of a pending or impending matter continues until the appellate process is complete. If the public comment involves a case from the judge’s own court, the judge should take particular care so that the comment does not denigrate public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality, which would violate Canon 2A. A judge may comment publicly on proceedings in which the judge is a litigant in a personal capacity, but not on mandamus proceedings when the judge is a litigant in an official capacity (but the judge may respond in accordance with Fed. R. App. P. 21(b)).
Canon 3B(3). A judge’s appointees include assigned counsel, officials such as referees, commissioners, special masters, receivers, guardians, and personnel such as law clerks, secretaries, and judicial assistants. Consent by the parties to an appointment or an award of compensation does not relieve the judge of the obligation prescribed by this subsection.
Canon 3B(5). Appropriate action may include direct communication with the judge or lawyer, other direct action if available, reporting the conduct to the appropriate authorities, or, when the judge believes that a judge’s or lawyer’s conduct is caused by drugs, alcohol, or a medical condition, making a confidential referral to an assistance program. Appropriate action may also include responding to a subpoena to testify or otherwise participating in judicial or lawyer disciplinary proceedings; a judge should be candid and honest with disciplinary authorities.
Canon 3C. Recusal considerations applicable to a judge’s spouse should also be considered with respect to a person other than a spouse with whom the judge maintains both a household and an intimate relationship.
Canon 3C(1)(c). In a criminal proceeding, a victim entitled to restitution is not, within the meaning of this Canon, a party to the proceeding or the subject matter in controversy. A judge who has a financial interest in the victim of a crime is not required by Canon 3C(1)(c) to disqualify from the criminal proceeding, but the judge must do so if the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned under Canon 3C(1) or if the judge has an interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding under Canon 3C(1)(d)(iii).
Canon 3C(1)(d)(ii). The fact that a lawyer in a proceeding is affiliated with a law firm with which a relative of the judge is affiliated does not of itself disqualify the judge. However, if “the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned” under Canon 3C(1), or the relative is known by the judge to have an interest in the law firm that could be “substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding” under Canon 3C(1)(d)(iii), the judge’s disqualification is required.