By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court’s Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions yesterday issued an expedited opinion advising that if a judge is asked to vouch for the character of a former client in a declaration that will be used in a habeas corpus proceeding, compliance may take place only if a subpoena is presented.
“The California Code of Judicial Ethics provides that a judicial officer may not submit a declaration in a habeas corpus action absent a subpoena if the declaration will contain character testimony regarding the criminal defendant,” the opinion declares.
“While not expressly provided by the code, to avoid the appearance of impropriety, a judicial officer is advised to require a subpoena even if the declaration will contain only factual testimony. If the judicial officer has any question regarding whether the declaration may contain character testimony, he or she is advised to err on the side of caution and require a subpoena. If the judicial officer chooses not to require a subpoena, he or she is advised to. at a minimum, refrain from using or referring to judicial title to avoid the appearance of lending judicial prestige to advance another’s interests.”
The opinion goes on to say:
“If the judicial officer chooses not to require a subpoena, the committee advises against reference to current title or position except in response to a subpoena or court order, as it may be construed as improperly lending judicial prestige to advance a person’s interest.”
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