CANON 4: A JUDGE MAY ENGAGE IN EXTRAJUDICIAL ACTIVITIES THAT ARE CONSISTENT WITH THE OBLIGATIONS OF JUDICIAL OFFICE
A judge may engage in extrajudicial activities, including law-related pursuits and civic, charitable, educational, religious, social, financial, fiduciary, and governmental activities, and may speak, write, lecture, and teach on both law-related and nonlegal subjects. However, a judge should not participate in extrajudicial activities that detract from the dignity of the judge’s office, interfere with the performance of the judge’s official duties, reflect adversely on the
judge’s impartiality, lead to frequent disqualification, or violate the limitations set forth below.
A. Law-related Activities.
(1) Speaking, Writing, and Teaching. A judge may speak, write, lecture, teach, and participate in other activities concerning the law, the legal system, and the
administration of justice.
(2) Consultation. A judge may consult with or appear at a public hearing before an executive or legislative body or official:
(a) on matters concerning the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice;
(b) to the extent that it would generally be perceived that a judge’s judicial experience provides special expertise in the area; or
(c) when the judge is acting pro se in a matter involving the judge or the judge’s interest.
(3) Organizations. A judge may participate in and serve as a member, officer, director, trustee, or nonlegal advisor of a nonprofit organization devoted to the
law, the legal system, or the administration of justice and may assist such an organization in the management and investment of funds. A judge may make
recommendations to public and private fund-granting agencies about projects and programs concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of
(4) Arbitration and Mediation. A judge should not act as an arbitrator or mediator or otherwise perform judicial functions apart from the judge’s official duties
unless expressly authorized by law.
(5) Practice of Law. A judge should not practice law and should not serve as a family member’s lawyer in any forum. A judge may, however, act pro se and
may, without compensation, give legal advice to and draft or review documents for a member of the judge’s family.
B. Civic and Charitable Activities. A judge may participate in and serve as an officer, director, trustee, or nonlegal advisor of a nonprofit civic, charitable, educational, religious, or social organization, subject to the following limitations:
(1) A judge should not serve if it is likely that the organization will either be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the judge or be
regularly engaged in adversary proceedings in any court.
(2) A judge should not give investment advice to such an organization but may serve on its board of directors or trustees even though it has the responsibility for approving investment decisions.
C. Fund Raising. A judge may assist nonprofit law-related, civic, charitable, educational, religious, or social organizations in planning fund-raising activities and may be listed as an officer, director, or trustee. A judge may solicit funds for such an organization from judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority and from members of the judge’s family. Otherwise, a judge should not personally participate in fund-raising activities, solicit funds for any organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for that purpose. A judge should not personally participate in membership solicitation if the solicitation might reasonably be perceived as coercive or is essentially a fund-raising mechanism.
D. Financial Activities.
(1) A judge may hold and manage investments, including real estate, and engage in other remunerative activity, but should refrain from financial and business
dealings that exploit the judicial position or involve the judge in frequent transactions or continuing business relationships with lawyers or other persons
likely to come before the court on which the judge serves.
(2) A judge may serve as an officer, director, active partner, manager, advisor, or employee of a business only if the business is closely held and controlled by
members of the judge’s family. For this purpose, “members of the judge’s family” means persons related to the judge or the judge’s spouse within the third
degree of relationship as defined in Canon 3C(3)(a), any other relative with whom the judge or the judge’s spouse maintains a close familial relationship, and
the spouse of any of the foregoing.
(3) As soon as the judge can do so without serious financial detriment, the judge should divest investments and other financial interests that might require
(4) A judge should comply with the restrictions on acceptance of gifts and the prohibition on solicitation of gifts set forth in the Judicial Conference Gift
Regulations. A judge should endeavor to prevent any member of the judge’s family residing in the household from soliciting or accepting a gift except to the
extent that a judge would be permitted to do so by the Judicial Conference Gift Regulations. A “member of the judge’s family” means any relative of a judge by
blood, adoption, or marriage, or any person treated by a judge as a member of the judge’s family.
(5) A judge should not disclose or use nonpublic information acquired in a judicial capacity for any purpose unrelated to the judge’s official duties.
E. Fiduciary Activities. A judge may serve as the executor, administrator, trustee, guardian, or other fiduciary only for the estate, trust, or person of a member of the judge’s family as defined in Canon 4D(4). As a family fiduciary a judge is subject to the following restrictions:
(1) The judge should not serve if it is likely that as a fiduciary the judge would be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the judge or if the
estate, trust, or ward becomes involved in adversary proceedings in the court on which the judge serves or one under its appellate jurisdiction.
(2) While acting as a fiduciary, a judge is subject to the same restrictions on financial activities that apply to the judge in a personal capacity.
F. Governmental Appointments. A judge may accept appointment to a governmental committee, commission, or other position only if it is one that concerns the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice, or if appointment of a judge is required by federal statute. A judge should not, in any event, accept such an appointment if the judge’s governmental duties would tend to undermine the public confidence in the integrity, impartiality, or independence of the judiciary. A judge may represent the judge’s country, state, or locality on ceremonial occasions or in connection with historical, educational, and cultural activities.
G. Chambers, Resources, and Staff. A judge should not to any substantial degree use judicial chambers, resources, or staff to engage in extrajudicial activities permitted by this Canon.
H. Compensation, Reimbursement, and Financial Reporting. A judge may accept compensation and reimbursement of expenses for the law-related and extrajudicial activities permitted by this Code if the source of the payments does not give the appearance of influencing the judge in the judge’s judicial duties or otherwise give the appearance of impropriety, subject to the following restrictions:
(1) Compensation should not exceed a reasonable amount nor should it exceed what a person who is not a judge would receive for the same activity.
(2) Expense reimbursement should be limited to the actual costs of travel, food, and lodging reasonably incurred by the judge and, where appropriate to the occasion, by the judge’s spouse or relative. Any additional payment is compensation.
(3) A judge should make required financial disclosures, including disclosures of gifts and other things of value, in compliance with applicable statutes and
Judicial Conference regulations and directives.
Canon 4. Complete separation of a judge from extrajudicial activities is neither possible nor wise; a judge should not become isolated from the society in which the judge lives.
As a judicial officer and a person specially learned in the law, a judge is in a unique position to contribute to the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice, including revising substantive and procedural law and improving criminal and juvenile justice. To the extent that the judge’s time permits and impartiality is not compromised, the judge is encouraged to do so, either independently or through a bar association, judicial conference, or other organization
dedicated to the law. Subject to the same limitations, judges may also engage in a wide range of non-law-related activities.
Within the boundaries of applicable law (see, e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 953) a judge may express opposition to the persecution of lawyers and judges anywhere in the world if the judge has ascertained, after reasonable inquiry, that the persecution is occasioned by conflict between the professional responsibilities of the persecuted judge or lawyer and the policies or practices of the relevant government.
A person other than a spouse with whom the judge maintains both a household and an intimate relationship should be considered a member of the judge’s family for purposes of legal assistance under Canon 4A(5), fund raising under Canon 4C, and family business activities under Canon 4D(2).
Canon 4A. Teaching and serving on the board of a law school are permissible, but in the case of a for-profit law school, board service is limited to a nongoverning advisory board. Consistent with this Canon, a judge may encourage lawyers to provide pro bono legal services.
Canon 4A(4). This Canon generally prohibits a judge from mediating a state court matter, except in unusual circumstances (e.g., when a judge is mediating a federal matter that cannot be resolved effectively without addressing the related state court matter).
Canon 4A(5). A judge may act pro se in all legal matters, including matters involving litigation and matters involving appearances before or other dealings with governmental bodies. In so doing, a judge must not abuse the prestige of office to advance the interests of the judge or
the judge’s family.
Canon 4B. The changing nature of some organizations and their exposure to litigation make it necessary for a judge regularly to reexamine the activities of each organization with which the judge is affiliated to determine if the judge’s continued association is appropriate. For example, in many jurisdictions, charitable hospitals are in court more often now than in the past.
Canon 4C. A judge may attend fund-raising events of law-related and other organizations although the judge may not be a speaker, a guest of honor, or featured on the program of such an event. Use of a judge’s name, position in the organization, and judicial designation on an organization’s letterhead, including when used for fund raising or soliciting members, does not violate Canon 4C if comparable information and designations are listed for others.
Canon 4D(1), (2), and (3). Canon 3 requires disqualification of a judge in any proceeding in which the judge has a financial interest, however small. Canon 4D requires a judge to refrain from engaging in business and from financial activities that might interfere with the impartial performance of the judge’s judicial duties. Canon 4H requires a judge to report compensation received for activities outside the judicial office. A judge has the rights of an ordinary citizen with respect to financial affairs, except for limitations required to safeguard the proper performance of the judge’s duties. A judge’s participation in a closely held family business, while generally permissible, may be prohibited if it takes too much time or involves misuse of judicial prestige or if the business is likely to come before the court on which the judge serves. Owning and receiving income from investments do not as such affect the performance of a judge’s duties.
Canon 4D(5). The restriction on using nonpublic information is not intended to affect a judge’s ability to act on information as necessary to protect the health or safety of the judge or a member of a judge’s family, court personnel, or other judicial officers if consistent with other provisions of this Code.
Canon 4E. Mere residence in the judge’s household does not by itself make a person a member of the judge’s family for purposes of this Canon. The person must be treated by the judge as a member of the judge’s family.
The Applicable Date of Compliance provision of this Code addresses continued service as a fiduciary.
A judge’s obligation under this Code and the judge’s obligation as a fiduciary may come into conflict. For example, a judge should resign as a trustee if it would result in detriment to the trust to divest holdings whose retention would require frequent disqualification of the judge in violation of Canon 4D(3).
Canon 4F. The appropriateness of accepting extrajudicial assignments must be assessed in light of the demands on judicial resources and the need to protect the courts from involvement in matters that may prove to be controversial. Judges should not accept governmental appointments that could interfere with the effectiveness and independence of the judiciary, interfere with the performance of the judge’s judicial responsibilities, or tend to undermine public confidence in the judiciary.
Canon 4H. A judge is not required by this Code to disclose income, debts, or investments, except as provided in this Canon. The Ethics Reform Act of 1989 and
implementing regulations promulgated by the Judicial Conference impose additional restrictions on judges’ receipt of compensation. That Act and those regulations should be consulted before a judge enters into any arrangement involving the receipt of compensation. The restrictions so imposed include but are not limited to: (1) a prohibition against receiving “honoraria” (defined as anything of value received for a speech, appearance, or article), (2) a prohibition against receiving compensation for service as a director, trustee, or officer of a profit or nonprofit organization, (3) a requirement that compensated teaching activities receive prior approval, and (4) a limitation on the receipt of “outside earned income.”