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Code of Judicial Conduct for Administrative Law Judges

CANON 2 - An Administrative Law Judge Shall Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in All Activities.

  1. An administrative law judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
  2. An administrative law judge shall not allow family, social, political, or other relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment. A judge shall not lend the prestige of the office to advance private interest, nor convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge.
  3. An administrative law judge shall not hold membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, or disability.

COMMENTARY - Canon 2.

Subsection A:

Public confidence in the administrative judiciary is eroded by irresponsible or improper conduct by judges. A judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. A judge must expect to be the subject of public scrutiny, therefore, a judge must expect and accept restrictions on the judge’s conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen, and should do so freely and willingly.

The prohibition against behaving with impropriety or the appearance of impropriety applies to both the professional and personal conduct of a judge. Because it is not practical to list all prohibited acts, the proscription is necessarily cast in general terms that extends to conduct by judges that is harmful although not specifically mentioned in this code. Actual improprieties under this standard include violations of law or specific provisions of this code. The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create, in reasonable minds, a perception that the judge’s ability to carry out adjudicatory responsibilities with integrity, impartiality, and competence is impaired.

Subsection B:

A judge shall not use the influence of the office to advance the judge’s own personal interest or the private interest of others. For example, it would be improper for a judge to use the judge’s position to gain a personal advantage, such as preferential treatment by an administrative agency to facilitate the disposition of a matter to gain a personal advantage.

Although a judge should be sensitive to potential abuse of office, a judge may, with careful consideration of the appearance of the circumstances and based on the judge’s personal knowledge, serve as a reference or provide a letter of recommendation.

This subsection does not afford the judge a privilege against testifying in response to an official summons or subpoena.

Subsection C:

Membership of a judge in an organization that practices invidious discrimination gives rise to perceptions that the judge’s impartiality is impaired. Whether an organization practices invidious discrimination is often a complex question to which judges should be sensitive. The answer cannot be determined from a mere examination of an organization’s current membership rolls, but rather depends on the history of the organization, selection of members, and other relevant factors.