Frequently Asked Questions about CJEO
Q: What is CJEO?
A: CJEO is an advisory committee that issues written opinions and gives advice on judicial ethics topics of interest to judicial officers, candidates for judicial office, and members of the public.
Q: Who can ask for advice?
A: Judicial officers and candidates for judicial office may request an informal or formal written opinion or expedited advice. Members of the public and representatives of entities, such as courts, may suggest topics for the committee to address in formal written opinions.
Q: What’s the difference between informal and formal opinions?
A: Formal opinions are the committee’s responses to requests for advice from members of the judiciary and candidates for judicial office, as well as to suggestions for opinions from members of the public. Formal opinions are generally posted on the CJEO website for public comment in draft form and posted on the website in final form when issued by the committee.
Informal opinions are the committee’s responses to requests for advice from members of the judiciary and candidates for judicial office. Informal opinions are not generally posted for public comment but are issued by the committee and then posted on the CJEO website.
Q: Can I get copies of the committee’s opinions and advice when they are distributed?
A: Yes, by requesting placement on the CJEO distribution lists.
Q: If I make a request or submit a topic, will my name be kept confidential?
A: Yes. The committee keeps all names and identifying information strictly confidential, both within the committee during deliberations as well as outside of the committee in all circumstances, including when the committee issues opinions and advice and posts them to its website.
Q: Can I waive confidentiality so that I can rely on the committee’s opinion in other proceedings?
A: Yes, if you are a member of the judiciary or a candidate for judicial office, and your conduct is the subject of an opinion request. Confidentiality can be waived in writing by contacting CJEO at firstname.lastname@example.org. The confidentiality of all committee deliberations and records, however, cannot be waived.8
Q: Will the committee give me advice about conduct being investigated by the Commission on Judicial Performance (CJP)?
A: No. The committee will not give opinions or advice on matters that are the subject of pending litigation or pending CJP or State Bar proceedings.
Q: Can I file a complaint about a judge with the committee?
A: No. The committee does not investigate or discipline misconduct. The Commission on Judicial Performance is the independent state agency responsible for investigating complaints of judicial misconduct and judicial incapacity and for disciplining judges, pursuant to article VI, section 18 of the California Constitution.
Q: When I request an opinion, will the committee investigate the facts or hold hearings?
A: No. The committee is not a fact-finding or adjudicatory body. The committee’s opinions are based on the premise that all relevant information has been disclosed and it provides guidance on only those facts.
Q: When I submit my request, should I include evidence?
A: No. The committee does not accept documentary evidence.
Q: What is the committee’s relationship to the California Supreme Court?
A: The committee is appointed and authorized by the California Supreme Court as part of the court’s constitutional responsibility to guide the conduct of judges and judicial candidates (Cal. Const., art. VI, § 18, subd. (m)). The committee’s work, however, is independent of the court, the CJP, the Judicial Council, and all other entities.
Q: What is the committee’s relationship to the California Supreme Court Advisory Committee on the Code of Judicial Ethics?
A: The advisory committee is also appointed and authorized by the California Supreme Court as part of the court’s constitutional responsibility to guide the conduct of judges and judicial candidates (Cal. Const., art. VI, § 18, subd. (m)). The advisory committee makes recommendations to the court regarding amendments to the California Code of Judicial Ethics. The advisory committee also publishes commentary following many canon provisions in the Code of Judicial Ethics. The advisory committee’s commentary, by explanation and example, provides guidance as to the purpose and meaning of the canons. CJEO provides written opinions and expedited advice on proper judicial conduct under the Code of Judicial Ethics and other relevant authorities, so its work often interprets and applies the published advisory committee commentary. CJEO ’s work, however, is independent of the advisory committee and all other entities.
Q: What is the committee’s relationship to the California Judges Association (CJA)?
A: CJA is a private association of judges that has provided advice and guidance on judicial ethics to the California bench for over 50 years. CJEO is an advisory committee authorized and appointed by the California Supreme Court as part of the court’s constitutional responsibility to guide the conduct of judges and judicial candidates (Cal. Const., art. VI, § 18, subd. (m)). CJEO’s members are judges and justices, and a commissioner, from across the state who provide advice and written opinions on judicial ethics topics as guidance to the judiciary and the public. CJA was actively involved in the implementation of CJEO, and CJA coordinates with CJEO on tracking issues for CJEO to address in written opinions. As part of that coordination, CJEO refers all requests for oral advice to the CJA judicial ethics hotline, which has a long history of providing oral advice to judges, without regard to membership in CJA. CJEO gives expedited advice when a judge does not want to contact CJA or when a CJEO opinion may provide an answer.