Background

Establishment of CJEO (2007):

In 2007, the  California Supreme Court announced the establishment of a committee that would be appointed and authorized by the court to provide judicial ethics advisory opinions on topics of interest to judges and the public.  The Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics (CJEO) was created to further ensure an impartial and effective judiciary, accessible to all Californians.  Recognizing that the judiciary relies on the confidence of the public it serves, the court established CJEO to provide greater assurance to the people of California that the highly regarded bench continues to act in conformance with the highest standards of conduct.

CJEO Implementation Committee (2007-2009):

Shortly after creating CJEO, the Supreme Court appointed an implementation committee to recommend rules to guide CJEO in providing opinions and advice.  In doing so, the court acknowledged the important historical role of the California Judges Association (CJA), a voluntary professional association of judges which for many years has provided ethics advice to California judges.  The court consulted with CJA and the Commission on Judicial Performance (CJP) to appoint members to the CJEO implementation committee with expertise in judicial ethics, including members of the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on the Code of Judicial Ethics, the CJP, and the CJA.

Following deliberations and consideration of public comments, the implementation committee submitted a report to the court containing recommendations and a draft rule to govern CJEO.

Rule 9.80 Adopted (2009):

In February, 2009, the court unanimously adopted Cal. Rules of Court, rule 9.80, which includes the following key provisions:

  • CJEO is an independent body appointed by the Supreme Court and comprised of 12 judicial officers;
  • Communications to and by the committee are strictly confidential;
  • The formal written opinions of the committee are published on this website and available for distribution to the public;
  • Both judges and judicial candidates may seek written opinions and oral advice;
  • Members of the public may suggest judicial ethics topics for the committee to consider as the subject of a formal opinion;
  • The committee considers all requests and suggestions for opinions, but has discretion to write opinions on the topics it determines are appropriate;
  • Because of the historical role and expertise of CJA, all requests to CJEO for oral advice are referred to the CJA’s Judicial Ethics Committee, although judges and candidates may choose to request oral advice from CJEO;
  • CJEO coordinates with CJA on the exchange of information regarding the informal responses CJA provides on its ethics hotline, to allow CJEO to be fully informed on areas of widespread concern, as well as developing issues and trends, so that CJEO may develop appropriate formal opinions designed to offer guidance in these areas; and
  • At no time will the names or identifying information of those requesting ethics advice, or whose conduct it the subject of a request or suggestion, be disclosed.

CJEO Begins Operations (2011):

Initial CJEO members were appointed by the court in December, 2009.  Due to budget concerns, however, the committee was unable to begin operations until 2011 when staff was hired and the CJEO office was opened.  Once it began operations, CJEO adopted internal operating rules and procedures to fulfill its responsibilities under rule 9.80, including the maintenance of this website and the issuance of formal and informal opinions.