This page, Canon 1: A judge shall uphold and promote the independence,* integrity,* and impartiality* of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety* and the appearance of impropriety.*, is part of
This page, Canon 1: A judge shall uphold and promote the independence,* integrity,* and impartiality* of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety* and the appearance of impropriety.*, is offered by
Supreme Judicial Court Rules

Code of Judicial Conduct

Supreme Judicial Court Rules Canon 1: A judge shall uphold and promote the independence,* integrity,* and impartiality* of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety* and the appearance of impropriety.*

Effective Date: 01/01/2016
Updates: Adopted October 8, 2015, effective January 1, 2016

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Rule 1.1 Compliance with the law

A judge shall comply with the law, including the Code of Judicial Conduct. 

Comment

[1] A judge's obligation to comply with the law ordinarily includes the obligation to comply with the State conflict of interest law, G. L. c. 268A and c. 268B . However, the unique role of judges requires that judges on occasion follow rules that may be more or less restrictive than those followed by other public employees. In many instances, this Code imposes more stringent restrictions on judges' activities because of their obligation to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary. Thus, for example, the Code regulates aspects of a judge's personal conduct, including a judge's participation in extrajudicial activities unrelated to the law, and prohibits judges from political and campaign activities open to many other public employees. See, e.g., Rules 3.7 and 4.1. However, in a few instances, this Code creates exemptions from particular restrictions imposed by G. L. c. 268A §§ 3 and 23(b)(2) so that judges may more fully participate in activities related to the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice. See, e.g., Rules 3.1(E) and 3.13(D)-(E)

Rule 1.2 Promoting confidence in the judiciary

A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

Comment

[1] Public confidence in the judiciary is eroded by improper conduct and conduct that creates the appearance of impropriety. This principle applies to both the professional and personal conduct of a judge. 

[2] A judge should expect to be the subject of public scrutiny that might be viewed as burdensome if applied to other citizens, and must accept the restrictions imposed by the Code. 

[3] Conduct that compromises or appears to compromise the independence, integrity, or impartiality of a judge undermines public confidence in the judiciary. Because it is not practicable to list all such conduct, the Rule is necessarily cast in general terms. 

[4] A judge is encouraged to participate in activities that promote ethical conduct among judges and lawyers, support professionalism within the judiciary and the legal profession, and promote access to justice for all. 

[5] Improprieties include violations of law or this Code, or other conduct for which the judge could be disciplined pursuant to G. L. c. 211C, § 2(5) . The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge violated this Code or engaged in other conduct that reflects adversely on the judge's honesty, impartiality, temperament, or fitness to serve as a judge. 

[6] A judge is encouraged to initiate and participate in appropriate community outreach activities for the purpose of promoting public understanding of and confidence in the administration of justice. In conducting such activities, the judge must act in a manner consistent with this Code. See, e.g., Rules 3.1 and 3.7

Rule 1.3 Avoiding abuse of the prestige of judicial office

A judge shall not abuse the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or others, or allow others to do so. 

Comment 

[1] It is improper for a judge to use or attempt to use the judge's position to gain personal advantage or preferential treatment of any kind. For example, a judge must not refer to the judge's judicial status to gain favorable treatment in encounters with traffic officials. Similarly, a judge must not use judicial letterhead to gain an advantage in conducting personal business. 

[2] A judge may provide an educational or employment reference or recommendation for an individual based on the judge's personal knowledge.  The judge may use official letterhead and sign the recommendation using the judicial title if the judge's knowledge of the applicant's qualifications arises from observations made in the judge's judicial capacity. The recommendation may not be accompanied by conduct that reasonably would be perceived as an attempt to exert pressure on the recipient to hire or admit the applicant. Where a judge's knowledge of the applicant's qualifications does not arise from observations made in the judge's judicial capacity, the judge may not use official letterhead, court email, or the judicial title, but the judge may send a private letter stating the judge's personal recommendation. The judge may refer to the judge's current position and title in the body of the private letter only if it is relevant to some substantive aspect of the recommendation. 

Court hiring policies may impose additional restrictions on recommendations for employment in the judicial branch, and the law may impose additional restrictions on recommendations for employment in state government. See, e.g., G. L. c. 66, § 3A G. L. c. 276, § 83 G. L. c. 211B, § 10(D) . See also Trial Court Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual, § 4.000, et seq. See Rule 3.3 for instances when a judge is asked to provide a character reference on behalf of a bar applicant or provide information for a background investigation in connection with an application for public employment or for security clearance. 

[3] Judges may participate in the process of judicial selection by cooperating with screening, nominating, appointing, and confirming authorities. Judges may make recommendations to and respond to inquiries from such entities concerning the professional qualifications of a person being considered for judicial office. Judges also may testify at confirmation hearings. 

[4] Special considerations arise when judges write or contribute to publications of for-profit entities, whether related or unrelated to the law. A judge should not permit anyone associated with the publication of such materials to exploit the judge's office in a manner that violates this Rule or other applicable law.  In contracts for publication of a judge's writing, the judge should retain sufficient control over the advertising to avoid such exploitation.

Downloads for Canon 1: A judge shall uphold and promote the independence,* integrity,* and impartiality* of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety* and the appearance of impropriety.*

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Note: Asterisk (*) indicates that the term is defined in the Terminology section.

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