About the Commission

Press Release

Announcement of New Joint ABA Commission to

Evaluate the Model Code of Judicial Conduct

Release: September 23, 2003

Contact: Nancy Cowger Slonim

Phone: 312/988-6132

E-mail: slonimn@staff.abanet.org

CHICAGO, Sept. 23, 2003 -- American Bar Association President Dennis W. Archer Jr. today announced the appointment of a Joint Commission to Evaluate the Model Code of Judicial Conduct, chaired by Mark I. Harrison of Phoenix, to review the ABA's model ethics code for judges and to recommend revisions for possible adoption in February 2005.

"Judicial ethics are not static," said Archer, announcing the new commission. "It has been 12 years since the ABA took a good, hard look at the code to see if it provides adequate guidance to judges about their conduct, and to the public about what to expect from judges. In the meantime, judges are facing growing pressures from interest groups participating in the judicial election process and initiatives in Congress that would restrict judicial independence, and other factors are coming into play that can bear on the conduct of judges performing their duties in office."

The commission includes judges and experts in the field of judicial and legal ethics, and is a joint project of the ABA Standing Committee on Judicial Independence and the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility.

Harrison pledged to start work immediately, and to seek the perspectives of the public and of lawyers and judges in evaluating whether the current code provides sufficient guidance, or how it might be improved.

"To continue to be effective, the code must address the changing circumstances in which judges at all levels find themselves. That is why I am so pleased that the lawyers and scholars on the commission are joined by an array of state and federal judges, sitting on trial courts, appellate courts, and administrative tribunals," said Harrison.

The commission will hold public hearings across the country during 2004. Harrison said he plans to issue a preliminary report for comment in the fall of 2004, and a final report for consideration by the ABA House of Delegates the following February. Information on the commission's work, including hearing schedules and written testimony, will be posted on a commission page on the ABA Web site, www.abanet.org/judicialethics/home.html.

Commission members in addition to Harrison are James J. Alfini, dean of South Texas College of Law in Houston; Loretta C. Argrett of Silver Spring, Md., a member of the council of the ABA Section of Taxation and past member of the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility; Jan Witold Baran of Washington, D.C., a past chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Election Law; Thomas M. Fitzpatrick of Seattle, a prosecutor and a member of the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility; Donald B. Hilliker of Chicago, a past chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility; Judge Margaret M. McKeown of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; Judge Cara Lee T. Neville of Minnesota's Fourth Judicial District Court in Minneapolis; Judge Harriet L. Turney of the Industrial Commission of Arizona in Phoenix; and Judge James A. Wynn of the North Carolina Court of Appeals in Raleigh. A public member also will be appointed.

The reporter for the commission will be Prof. Charles G. Geyh of the Indiana University School of Law, Bloomington. The project is funded by a grant from The Joyce Foundation.

The American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership association in the world. With more than 405,000 members, the ABA provides law school accreditation, continuing legal education, information about the law, programs to assist lawyers and judges in their work, and initiatives to improve the legal system for the public.