Standards of Conduct for Events with Judges

Download the Bench-Bar Relations Guide Here

In order to ensure successful programs involving members of the judiciary, and to foster open and beneficial exchanges between judges and young lawyers, the YLC has prepared a guidance document, Beyond Chambers: What Every Lawyer Should Know About Interacting With Judges Outside the Courtroom.  In addition to reviewing that guide and any applicable portions of the Canons of Judicial Conduct and the Rules of Professional Responsibility, young lawyers planning and attending an event with judges should consult and follow the recommendations below.

Please DO:

  • Recall your oath to “faithfully, courteously and professionally” demean yourself in the practice of law, and treat judges and others attending the event with courtesy and professionalism.
  • Seek a judge’s input on issues involving the legal system, the administration of justice, and court procedure.  Canons 3B(9), 3C, 4.
  • Engage the judge about access to justice and pro bono service opportunities.  Canon 4C; Rule 6.1, Rules of Professional Conduct.

Please DO NOT:

  • Attempt to make improper gifts to a judge.  Rule 3.5(d), Rules of Professional Conduct (a lawyer “shall not give or lend anything of value to a judge, official, or employee of a tribunal under circumstances which might give the appearance that the gift or loan is made to influence official action”); Canon 4E(5).
  • Attempt to engage in ex parte communications with a judge, including comments about a judge’s rulings in past or pending cases.  Rule 3.5(e), Rules of Professional Conduct (a lawyer shall not “communicate, or cause another to communicate, as to the merits of the cause with a judge or an official before whom the proceeding is pending”).
  • Attempt to engage a judge in discussions involving political officers, issues, organizations, or candidates.  Canon 5.
  • Seek to use the judge as a personal reference (unless you have a prior relationship) or to serve as a character witness.  Canon 2B.