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July 14, 2023 National Conference of Specialized Court Judges

The 60 Second Judicial Ethics Challenge

By Hon. Richard Ginkowski, Pleasant Prairie, WI

Ethics is one of the judicial education topics I occasionally teach but, as president of the Wisconsin Municipal Judges Association, my role was different when I recently welcomed nearly two dozen new judges at the beginning of “judge camp.” There I gave the “newbies” the following 60 second judicial ethics challenge to avoid judicial discipline:

  1. Be Polite
    1. Be careful what you say in court, online, in writing and on social media.
    2. Treat your staff with professionalism and respect.
  2. Obey The Law
    1. Honest mistakes of law usually aren’t cause for judicial discipline but willful or repeated violations could be.
  3. Use Common Sense
  4. And Should You Mess Up, Fess Up – Promptly

I also said that I begin every day on the bench by introducing myself and then saying that “it is my honor to preside over your court.

That’s it. As complicated as some judicial ethics matters can be many disciplinary issues might be avoided by following this simple advice and remembering that the courts belong to the people we serve. 

Hon. Richard Ginkowski

Executive Committee Member, National Conference of Specialized Court Judges

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