Ask the Model Code: to tattle or not to tattle

Dear Model Code:

When is it appropriate for a judge to report a fellow judge’s behavior?

Sincerely,

Judge Not-A-Tattletale

 

Dear Judge Not-A-Tattletale:

Great question. Where is the line between being a good judge and being a bad co-worker?

Everyone knows that the Model Code says judges shall perform their duties “impartially, competently, and diligently.” But what is your duty when you find out other judges aren’t doing their duty?

Three rules, in particular, relate to fellow judges’ unethical behavior.

Canon 2, Rule 2.12 B states: “A judge with supervisory authority for the performance of other judges shall take reasonable measures to ensure that those judges properly discharge their judicial responsibilities.”

Canon 2, Rule 2.15 A states: “A judge having knowledge that another judge has committed a violation of this Code that raises a substantial question regarding the judge’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a judge in other respects shall inform the appropriate authority.”

Rule 2.15 C specifies that if a judge has information “indicating a substantial likelihood” that another judge has behaved unethically, then the judge “shall take appropriate action.”

Our judge friends have told us that direct knowledge, not just hearsay, may be required for the obligation to report. For example, if you were to witness a judge egregiously berating a lawyer, witness, juror or staff, that public conduct demeans the judicial office and ought to be reported.

No one wants to report a fellow judge, but if it is in the best interest of the judiciary as a whole, then it needs to be done.

Observantly yours,

The Model Code of Judicial Conduct

NJC News
Washington DC Supreme Court facade equal justice under the law
Almost all judges believe Supreme Court justices should be subject to an ethics code

It’s safe to say that judges think their brethren and sistren on the U.S. Supreme Court should be bound b...

Remembering Lee Sinclair

Photo courtesy of The Repository Lee Sinclair recalled that as a child he loved to visit the Stark Count...

Remembering Dean Larry Hyde

Judge Laurance M. “Larry” Hyde, the dean who established The National Judicial College on the campu...

Interior of cell block in abandoned State Correctional Institution, or jail., common room with jail cells.
Poll suggests that judges know what life is like in their jails and prisons

Judges who send people to jail or prison usually have at least some idea of the conditions in the facilitie...

Judicial Heroes and Legends: May 2022 - Hon. Constance Baker Motley

When Ketanji Brown Jackson was nominated to become the first Black woman justice of the U.S. Supreme Co...

View All News

Download a PDF of our complete 2022 course catalog

Download