West Virginia Judiciary

Code of Judicial Conduct

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Code of Judicial Conduct: Canon 1

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Canon 1

A Judge Shall Uphold And Promote The Independence, Integrity, And Impartiality Of The Judiciary, And Shall Avoid Impropriety And The Appearance Of Impropriety.

Compliance With the Law

A judge shall comply with the law,* including the West Virginia Code of Judicial Conduct.

Clerk's Notes on Rule 1.1

Rule 1.1 follows the 2007 Model Code. It replaces former Canon 1A, which contained a number of exhortative pronouncements about what judges "should" do. In keeping with the primary objective of the 2007 Model Code revisions, the new rules are designed to be black-letter statements about what judges "must" do, and such aspirational statements are better suited for the Preamble, where they are now contained.


Confidence in the Judiciary

A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence,* integrity,* and impartiality* of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

COMMENT

[1] Public confidence in the judiciary is eroded by improper conduct and conduct that creates the appearance of impropriety. This principle applies to both the professional and personal conduct of a judge.

[2] A judge should expect to be the subject of public scrutiny that might be viewed as burdensome if applied to other citizens, and must accept the restrictions imposed by the Code.

[3] Conduct that compromises or appears to compromise the independence, integrity, and impartiality of a judge undermines public confidence in the judiciary. Because it is not practicable to list all such conduct, the Rule is necessarily cast in general terms.

[4] Judges should participate in activities that promote ethical conduct among judges and lawyers, support professionalism within the judiciary and the legal profession, and promote access to justice for all.

[5] Actual improprieties include violations of law, court rules or provisions of this Code. The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge violated this Code or engaged in other conduct that reflects adversely on the judge's honesty, impartiality, temperament, or fitness to serve as a judge.

[6] A judge should initiate and participate in community outreach activities for the purpose of promoting public understanding of and confidence in the administration of justice. In conducting such activities, the judge must act in a manner consistent with this Code.


Clerk's Notes on Rule 1.2

Rule 1.2 and its comment are based entirely on the 2007 Model Code.


Avoiding Abuse of the Prestige of Judicial Office

A judge shall not abuse the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests* of the judge or others, or allow others to do so.

COMMENT

[1] It is improper for a judge to use or attempt to use his or her position to gain personal advantage or deferential treatment of any kind. For example, it would be improper for a judge to allude to his or her judicial status to gain favorable treatment in encounters with traffic officials. Similarly, a judge must not use judicial letterhead to gain an advantage in conducting his or her personal business.

[2] A judge may provide a reference or recommendation for an individual based upon the judge's personal knowledge. The judge may use official letterhead if there is no likelihood that the use of the letterhead would reasonably be perceived as an attempt to exert pressure by reason of the judicial office.

[3] Judges may participate in the process of judicial selection by cooperating with appointing authorities and screening committees, and by responding to inquiries from such entities concerning the professional qualifications of a person being considered for judicial office.

[4] Special considerations arise when judges write or contribute to publications of for-profit entities, whether related or unrelated to the law. A judge should not permit anyone associated with the publication of such materials to exploit the judge's office in a manner that violates this Rule or other applicable law. In contracts for publication of a judge's writing, the judge should retain sufficient control over the advertising to avoid such exploitation.


Clerk's Notes on Rule 1.3

Rule 1.3 and its comment are based entirely on the 2007 Model Code, with one exception. The phrase "if the judge indicates that the reference is personal and" was deleted from the last sentence of Comment [2].