The American Bar Association, last Oct. 31st., released its final draft revision of its “Model Rules of Judicial Conduct,” addressing a host of issues relating to propriety in judicial conduct, among them increasing pressure on judges and judicial candidates on political issues & limits on their accepting gifts, including free attendance at seminars.
BNA’s Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct noted last week that the new judicial rules are modeled after a format comparable to the Rules of Professional Conduct, being “black-letter rules followed by explanatory comments,” and that they’ve been streamlined down to four canons from the current five.
The BNA article says “one of the commission’s most controversial decisions was retaining the current code’s prohibition against judicial conduct that has the ‘appearance of impropriety,’ with critics saying the language is too vague to be useful and, in fact, may prove to be unconstitutional.” “Impropriety” is defined in the proposed model code as conduct “that violates the law, court rules, or provisions of this Code, and conduct that undermines a judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality.”
Another new imperative, Rule 2.14, would require judges to take “appropriate actions” if they have “reasonable belief” that the performance of a lawyer or another judge is “impaired by drugs, alcohol, or other mental, emotional, or physical condition.”
The model rules will be presented to and voted on at the ABA House of Delegates meeting in Miami, Florida in February.