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July 16, 2020

Model Code of Judicial Conduct: Preface


The Code of Judicial Conduct was adopted by the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association on August 16, 1972. The Code replaced the Canons of Judicial Ethics, which had been formulated almost 50 years earlier. Although two amendments to the Code have been adopted since 1972, the Code has not been reviewed comprehensively until now.

A survey conducted by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility in 1986 led to the conclusion that in general the Code had served its purposes well, but that a comprehensive review of the Code was desirable. This review, with an initial grant from the Josephson Institute for the Advancement of Ethics, was funded by the American Bar Association and the State Justice Institute. The Model Code of Judicial Conduct (August 1990) was prepared by the Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility and a Subcommittee comprised of several members and former members of the Ethics Committee and several members of the judiciary, with the assistance of a reporter, a research attorney, an advisor and liaisons from other ABA groups and interested organizations.

In the revision process, the Association sought and considered the views of members of the judiciary, the bar and the general public. In the judgment of the Association, this Code, consisting of statements of norms denominated Canons, specific Sections and Commentary, states appropriate ethical obligations of judges.

The general format of the 1972 Code is retained. A Preamble and a Terminology section are added in this revision. An Application Section follows the Canons. An Appendix contains an example of a rule to establish a judicial ethics committee. Its purpose is to assist jurisdictions in establishing judicial ethics advisory committees where none exists, which the Association believes are essential to the proper administration of a code of judicial ethics. The Appendix is not, however, intended to be adopted by jurisdictions as part of the Code.

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