The Supreme Court of California Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions (CJEO) has adopted a draft formal opinion and approved it for posting and public comment pursuant to California Rules of Court, rule 9.80(j)(2) and CJEO Internal Operating Rules and Procedures, rule 7(d).  (Rule 9.80; CJEO Rules.)  The public is invited to comment on the draft opinion before the committee considers adoption of an opinion in final form.

CJEO Draft Formal Opinion 2018-013 examines a trial court judge’s disclosure obligations related to a judicial election campaign, provided in canon 3E of the California Code of Judicial Conduct and Code of Civil Procedure section 170.1.  The draft opinion advises that a that a trial court judge who accepts a campaign contributions of $100 or more from a party, lawyer, or law office or firm that appears before the judge, or from a witness in a proceeding where the judge will evaluate the witness’s credibility, may be disqualified and, if not, is required to disclose the contribution. The draft opinion also advises that other types of campaign-related assistance should be disclosed if the assistance would create doubts regarding the judge’s impartiality in a proceeding.  The draft opinion provides guidance as to these disclosures, including what information the trial judge must disclose, how to make the disclosure, and when the disclosure obligation begins and for how long the judge is required to make disclosures.

After receiving and reviewing comments, the committee will decide whether the draft opinion should be published in its original form, modified, or withdrawn.  (Rule 9.80(j)(2); CJEO rule 7(d).)  Comments are due by January 18, 2019, and may be submitted as described below.

Comments submitted in response to this Invitation to Comment are confidential communications to the committee and precluded from disclosure under the CJEO rules.  (Rule 9.80(h); CJEO rule 5(b).)  However, confidentiality may be waived under those rules (Rule 9.80(h)(3); CJEO rule 5(b)(1), (e)) and the committee will post on the CJEO website, at the close of the comment period, any comments submitted with a statement of waiver of confidentiality or consent to disclose.  The online comment form provided on the committee’s website includes a waiver option.

CJEO Draft Formal Opinion 2018-013 Invitation to Comment

Waiver of Confidentiality*
I waive confidentiality under the CJEO rules and consent to disclosure of this comment by posting on the CJEO website for public review after the deadline for comments.

Draft Formal Opinion 2018-013; Disclosure of Campaign Contributions in Trial Court Elections