The California Supreme Court established the Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions to provide judicial ethics advisory opinions and advice to judicial officers and candidates for judicial office. The court created the committee in furtherance of its responsibilities under Article VI, section 18(m) of the California Constitution to adopt the Code of Judicial Ethics and govern the conduct of judges and judicial candidates. The committee was established to encourage judges and candidates to seek ethics advice, and, through written opinions, to provide them with guidance for complying with the Code’s canons. The court’s establishment of CJEO followed the practices of the vast majority of other state court systems.

 

Establishment of CJEO (2007)

In 2007, the  California Supreme Court created the Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions (CJEO) 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 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 that continues to provide 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

In February 2009, the court unanimously adopted California Rules of Court, rule 9.80, which included the following key provisions:

  • CJEO is an independent body appointed by the Supreme Court and comprised of 12 judicial officers;
  • Communications to and by CJEO are strictly confidential;
  • CJEO’s formal written opinions are published on this website and available for distribution to the public;
  • Judges and judicial candidates may request 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;
  • CJEO considers all requests and suggestions for opinions but has discretion to write opinions on the topics it determines are appropriate;
  • CJEO may adopt a revocable policy of referring requests for oral advice, with conditions and exceptions as approved by the committee, to the CJA’s Judicial Ethics Committee;
  • CJEO confidentially receives the informal responses CJA provides on its ethics hotline, which allows 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
  • CJEO maintains confidentiality of the names or identifying information of those requesting ethics advice, or whose conduct it the subject of a request or suggestion.

 

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 committee counsel was hired and the CJEO office was opened.  In 2011, CJEO adopted internal operating rules and procedures to fulfill its responsibilities under rule 9.80, including the maintenance of this website and a distribution list, and the issuance of  formal and informal opinions and oral advice.