Tuesday, December 15, 2009
S.C. Appoints Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court yesterday announced the appointment of the initial 12 members of the Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions, including Justice Judith Ashmann-Gerst of this district’s Court of Appeal, Div. Two and Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Joanne B. O’Donnell and John S. Wiley Jr.
Chaired by Third District Court of Appeal Justice Ronald B. Robie, the CJEO was established to provide judicial officers and candidates in California with an official independent resource from which to obtain guidance on ethical conduct, conforming to the Code of Judicial Ethics and ensuring that the public’s interest in an impartial and ethical judiciary is protected, a Judicial Council spokesperson said.
Article VI, section 18(m) of the California Constitution charges the Supreme Court with adopting the Code of Judicial Ethics to govern the conduct of judges and judicial candidates, and the creation of the CJEO committee is consistent with and advances the court’s discharge of that responsibility, the spokesperson added.
Pursuant to California Rule of Court 9.80, the CJEO may issue formal written opinions that are to be distributed to the judges of the state and made publicly available. Both sitting judges and judicial candidates may seek advice from the CJEO, and the CJEO has discretion to select the issues it considers appropriate for formal opinions.
The CJEO is also authorized to provide oral advice and informal written opinions, but the spokesperson said the CJEO will refer requests for advice not requiring a formal written opinion to the California Judge’s Association’s Judicial Ethics Committee.
Communications to and by the CJEO will be confidential, except for those reports and opinions it makes public, the spokesperson said. An individual requesting information may waive confidentiality as to his or her inquiry and the CJEO’s response, but may not waive the confidentiality of the CJEO’s proceedings, the spokesperson explained.
The Supreme Court’s staff will assist in providing administrative resources for the CJEO’s operations, but the spokesperson emphasized that no employee of the court, Administrative Office of the Courts, the Commission on Judicial Performance, the CJA, or any other source will assist the CJEO in its substantive work.
Obtaining resources to enable the hiring of an independent staff will be “a high priority” for the Supreme Court, the spokesperson said.
The 12 initial members of the CJEO are to serve staggered terms ranging from five years for Robie and Vice-Chair Douglas P. Miller, who sits on Div. Two of the Fourth District Court of Appeal, to two years.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Mary Carolyn Morgan is also slated to serve a five-year term. Justice Maria Rivera of the First District Court of Appeal, Div Four was appointed to a four-year term, along with Wiley and El Dorado Superior Court Judge Suzanne N. Kingsbury.
San Diego Superior Court Presiding Judge Kenneth K. So, San Joaquin Superior Court Judge George J. Abdallah Jr. and Contra Costa Superior Court Commissioner Robert L. Broughton were appointed to three-year terms while Ashmann-Gerst, O’Donnell and retired Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Garcia were slated to two-year terms.
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