Judicial Ethics Column

Marla N. Greenstein is Executive Director of the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct, a position she has held since 1989. Ms. Greenstein served from 1996-97 as Chair of the ABA Judicial Division Lawyers Conference. Ms. Greenstein also serves as Secretary of the Board of the Association of Judicial Disciplinary Counsel. She is a graduate of Loyola University of Chicago School of Law and holds an undergraduate degree in American Government and Philosophy from Georgetown University.

2019

Judicial Ethics, Impartiality, and the Media
When judges explore their relationship and comfort with the media and are aware of their courts’ guidelines for dealing with the media, they can have a meaningful media presence that informs the public and maintains the impartiality of the judiciary.

Ethics and Judicial Independence in an Executive Branch Judiciary
Articles in this issue raise the many challenges to the independence of administrative law judges, but hopefully states’ adoption and application of Model Codes of Conduct will help these judges to remain free from outside influence.

The Role of the Judge in Children’s Matters
When dealing with matters involving children, a judge’s impartial decision-making requires a disciplined evaluation of the facts while acknowledging the emotional realities. Ultimately, the judge must determine what actions are in the best interest of the child and communicate these findings with directness and sensitivity.

2018

Finding Guidance Beyond Your Code of Judicial Conduct
The ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct is periodically revised to keep up with an evolving world. “Sexual harassment” didn’t appear in the Code until 1990, when it was explained in terms of “bias” and “prejudice.” Major revisions to the Code came later, in 2007, when sexual harassment was explicitly prohibited.

Judicial Ethics of Bail Decision Making
Articles in this issue reflect the highest goals of the Code of Judicial Conduct and call upon judges to change the existing cash bail and pretrial justice system in order to promote public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary.

Maintaining Connections with Lawyers
Greenstein contemplates the boundaries between practitioner and judge, which create an appearance of impartiality that the public expects, while also considering the ethical requirements for judges to maintain connections to lawyers and the people they serve.

The Problematic Role of the Judge in Assessing Addiction
Judges encounter addiction in the courtroom daily. However, the law is slow to evolve, and the court may be limited in its flexibility when addiction is involved. Hopefully, going forward judges can work with policymakers on ways to address addiction in the courtroom.

2017

Scientific Knowledge or Ex Parte Facts? Maintaining the Ethical Distinction
Though expert witnesses are used to establish formal assessments in court, judges must understand and continue to educate themselves on science to meaningfully serve as gatekeepers. This is especially true because courses and science experts may present self-serving information that crosses an ethical line.

The Ethics of a Sanctuary Courthouse 
Immigrants may hesitate to seek judicial protection and medical care if it means risking arrest. As a result, some legal and judicial leaders have declared courthouses and hospitals “safe harbors,” where law enforcement cannot interfere with the ability of a person to attend a local court hearing or receive necessary medical help.

A Day in the Life of a Judicial Ethics Counsel
As with most judges, there is no “typical” day for those who staff judicial conduct commissions. In Greenstein’s role, she provides ethics advice to judges and investigates complaints of ethical misconduct by judges.

Can Sitting Judges “Practice Law” as Members of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps?
States have taken a variety of stances on whether a sitting judge can both practice law and serve as an advocate on the JAG corps. Some states maintain that there is a conflict if a judge provides services to military members that resemble those of civilian lawyers, while other states hold that judges should not be limited in their scope of military assignments.

2016

Judicial Ethics and Tribal Courts
By adopting a Code of Conduct, tribal decision makers can benefit from guidance, clear expectations, and confidence in their decisions from tribal members.

International Judicial Ethics 
Several judicial ethics codes have been developed for international judges over the past two decades. The most recent has separate code sections for “national judges” and “international judges.”

The Challenge of Maintaining Confidence in a Judiciary Lacking in Diversity
Judges who vigilantly address breaches of diversity in their courtroom, including staff and jury pool selection, will increase confidence in a judiciary that might not be a s diverse as its population.

2015 

Manifesting Implicit Bias
While our Code of Judicial Conduct cannot possibly prohibit the manifestation of implicit bias, each judge can live his or her own version of Model Code of Judicial Conduct Rule 2.3 (B) in careful awareness and contemplation of the assumptions we all carry with us.

Ethical Issues and Forensic Evidence: How Much Science Should a Judge Know?
Judges are impartial arbiters of fact, relying on presentations in court for their education about facts to be proven. At what point is science best presented in court through experts and not directly to judges through professional education?

Ethics Challenges for a Mental Health Court Judge
In mental health court, the goals are to address the underlying reason that the person is interacting with the judicial system and to reduce the chances that it will recur. In addition to the usual problem-solving court dilemmas, judges in mental health court often need to rely on teams of outside providers.

Innovations and Ethics
By thoughtfully embracing innovation, judges can embody the integrity of the justice system.

2014

Judges Must Keep Up with Technology: It’s Not Just for Lawyers
Judges require technological literacy to be effective and to exercise their responsibility in a virtual world.

Evolving Role of the Appellate Courts in Judicial Ethics
In the past 50 years, the ABA and its appellate judges have developed Model Codes of Judicial Conduct and assisted in forming judicial conduct commissions in all 50 states. Because of this dedicated effort, we can all look forward to a strong ethical judiciary in our next 50 years.

Can a Judge Be Impartial and Passionate in Domestic Violence Matters?
Confronting the complex issues in domestic violence, judges are often forced into challenging roles. When dealing with these matters, they must balance their passion with the necessary impartiality that fairness demands.

Judicial Innovations Lead to Inevitable Ethics Questions
Given budget constraints and increasing family issues brought to the courts, innovation will be required to fulfill the obligations under Rule 2.5 of the 2007 Model Code of Judicial Conduct. Advisory opinions will be needed more than ever before to address this changing landscape.

2013

Is Judicial Disqualification an Issue of Ethics or of Law?
While individual judges may differ in weighing the ethical requirements of avoiding the appearance of bias against the duty to decide matters assigned, the thoughtful balancing of these two interests provides an ethical structure for making final determinations.

Ethical Challenges When Addressing Emerging Legal Issues 
While it may take a long time for human trafficking to be recognized in the same way as domestic violence in our country’s courtrooms, ethics and justice require that judges patiently maintain their impartiality on the bench while working earnestly to educate their communities.

Reflections on the Future of Judicial Ethics 
Issues such as virtual courts and court-funding crises continue to place new demands on the judiciary. Whatever their impact in the future, Greenstein believes that professionals will give advice, courts will address transgressions, and Model Codes of Judicial Conduct will continue to evolve.

Ethics in Times of Crisis
By keeping basic ethical precepts in the forefront, judges can ensure that courts in times of crisis are courts that continue to promote public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary.

2012

Ethical Boundaries for Judges Working with Correctional Facilities
Judges should stay informed of corrections institutions’ practices by engaging in dialogue with corrections officers in official settings and touring the facilities to which they sentence offenders.