Ask the Model Code: When may a judge talk to the press?

A: The Model Code does not expressly prohibit a judge from speaking with the press. Judges may speak with the press at any time—but not about any matter.

Educating the press and the public about the judicial process is always OK.

But judges should avoid speaking to the press or making any “public statement that might reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness of a matter pending or impending in any court … or might substantially interfere with a fair trial or hearing” (Rule 2.10). Translation: Don’t comment on a trial that is in progress or about to start, whether or not it’s your trial.

In Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002), the Supreme Court ruled that judicial candidates may air their views on disputed legal and political issues. However, any active judge who decides to speak with the media to announce a view can be subject to discipline for failing “to perform all duties of judicial office fairly and impartially” (Rule 2.2).

Judges likely already know that their decision to become a judge comes with limitations on judicial speech.

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