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Committee on Judicial Ethics

Policy and Rules of the Committee

 

  1. Committee and Membership. The Chief Justice shall appoint a Committee on Judicial Ethics (Committee) consisting of five members. Four of the members shall be judges or judge trial referees and one of the members shall be a law professor who specializes in professional ethics. The Chief Justice shall consider any recommendations submitted by the Connecticut Judges Association but shall not be bound by such recommendations. Of the members first appointed, two shall be for three years, two shall be appointed for two years and one shall be appointed for one year.  On the expiration of the term of office of a member, a successor shall be appointed for a term of three years. Members may be reappointed to the Committee, but no member shall be appointed to more than two successive full three year terms. Members shall continue to serve until a successor is appointed, and appointments to fill a vacancy shall be for the balance of the existing term. The Chief Justice may revoke or suspend an appointment for good cause as determined by the Chief Justice.

    The Chief Justice may appoint one or more alternate members to the Committee in such numbers as may be necessary, in order that said Committee may render efficient service in performing its duties. An alternate member may be so appointed for a period of up to three years and shall be a judge, judge trial referee or a law professor who specializes in professional ethics. An alternate member may serve in place of a member of the Committee at any time when so directed by the Chair of the Committee, including but not limited to when a member is unavailable or has a conflict of interest, and while so serving shall have all the powers and duties of members of the Committee. Alternate members so appointed shall have power to complete any matter pending at the expiration of the term for which they were appointed. Alternate members may be reappointed to additional terms as an alternate for a maximum of six successive years. Service as an alternate will not impact a persons’ eligibility for appointment as a regular member of the Committee.

  2. Powers and Duties. The Committee shall have the power and duty to:
  1. render formal or informal advisory opinions with respect to the interpretation of rules of court and statutes relating to the ethical and professional conduct of judges, senior judges, judge trial referees, family support magistrates and judicial or family support magistrate nominees (hereinafter collectively referred to as judicial officials, persons subject to such judicial officials’ direction and control or over whom the judicial official exercises supervisory responsibilities, or the spouse or relatives of a judicial official;
  2. make additional procedural rules, as it deems necessary, in addition to the procedural rules contained herein;
  3. in January of each year, submit to the Chief Justice and the Superior Court judges a report of its activities, together with any recommendations; and
  4. publish on the Judicial Branch website a current version of this policy, its procedural rules, opinions (subject to the limitations set forth below) and such other information as it deems appropriate.
  1. Administration. The Chief Justice shall designate one of the members of the Committee as Chairperson and another as Vice Chairperson. The Chief Justice shall designate a staff attorney to serve as the secretary and principal administrative officer (hereinafter referred to as Secretary to the Committee).
  1. A quorum of the Committee shall consist of three members.
  2. The Committee may render written opinions only by an affirmative vote of at least three members.
  3. By rule the Committee may delegate particular types of matters, including the issuance of informal oral opinions, to a lesser number of members or to the Secretary to the Committee.
  4. The Secretary to the Committee shall maintain a record of all requests for opinions and the Committee’s responses thereto.
  5. The members of the Committee shall serve without compensation but shall be reimbursed for necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their official duties.
  1. Opinion Requests.
  1. A request for an advisory opinion may be made only by a judicial official.
  2. The Committee shall not render opinions regarding the proposed conduct of someone other than the person submitting the request, except that the Committee may respond to a request from a judicial official about (i) a person subject to a judicial official’s direction and control, (ii) a person over whom a judicial official exercises supervisory responsibilities, or (iii) a judicial official’s spouse or relatives.
  3. The Committee shall only issue opinions that address contemplated or proposed future conduct and shall not issue opinions addressing past or current conduct unless the past or current conduct relates to future conduct or is continuing.
  4. Formal Advisory Opinions. Requests for formal advisory opinions shall be made by letter, addressed to the Secretary to the Committee. The letter shall be signed by the judicial official requesting the advice and shall set forth fully all facts bearing on the question or questions on which he or she requests advice. Because the Committee will not render opinions on issues pending before a court, agency, or commission, including the Judicial Review Council, or that relate to past or current conduct unless such conduct relates to future or continuing conduct, the request shall contain an affirmation that, to the best of the information and belief of the judicial official requesting the opinion, no issue raised thereby, whether in reference to the requesting judicial official or to any other person, is presently pending before any court, agency, or commission and if it relates to past or current conduct, such conduct relates to future or continuing conduct. The judicial official shall immediately notify the Secretary to the Committee if the subject matter of the request, subsequent to filing the request, becomes the subject matter of a proceeding before a court, agency or commission.
  5. Informal Advisory Opinions. Requests for informal advisory opinions shall be made by telephone to the Secretary to the Committee. The request shall contain the same information required for a formal advisory opinion and there shall be the same ongoing duty to inform if the subject of the request becomes the subject of matter of a proceeding before a court, agency or commission. The Secretary to the Committee shall maintain a sequentially numbered record, by calendar year, of requests for informal opinions and the responses thereto, but shall not include or record the name of the requesting judicial official or any personally identifiable information concerning that judicial official. A judicial official who has requested an informal opinion may, at any time, request a formal opinion concerning the subject matter of the informal opinion by submitting a request in writing that complies with the requirements of paragraph 4d, above.
  1. Scope of Question. Advisory opinion requests must relate to the interpretation of rules of court relating to the ethical and professional conduct of (a) the requesting judicial official, (b) someone subject to the requesting judicial official’s direction and control, (c) someone over whom the requesting judicial official exercises supervisory responsibility, or (d) a spouse or relative of the requesting judicial official. The Committee has discretion to decline to answer questions for any reason including those seeking opinions on hypothetical questions or upon questions relating to the conduct of persons other than the requesting judicial official but no such request is precluded by this policy.

  2. Consideration of Requests. The Committee shall render formal and informal advisory opinions with respect to the interpretation of rules of court relating to the ethical and professional conduct of judicial officials, persons subject to their direction and control, persons over whom they exercise supervisory responsibility, or the spouse or relative of a judicial official. Formal opinions shall be in writing while informal opinions shall be given orally. The Committee will not render opinions on issues pending before a court, agency, or commission, including but not limited to the Judicial Review Council. The Committee may decline to render an opinion for any reason that it deems sufficient and shall have discretion to require that an oral request for an informal opinion be submitted in writing as a request for a formal opinion. The Committee may request additional information for purposes of clarification prior to rendering an opinion.

  3. Disclosure of Requests and Opinions. Unless exempted from disclosure by legislation or a court order, the Secretary to the Committee’s records of requests for opinions and responses thereto, including requests for formal opinions, formal opinions, and the sequential record of requests and responses, shall be public records. The Secretary to the Committee shall not write in any records or documents the name of the judicial official requesting an informal opinion or personally identifying information concerning any such judicial official requesting an informal opinion. In addition, except as authorized in paragraph 9, below, or if ordered to do so by a court, the Secretary to the Committee shall not disclose the identity of any judicial official who requested or is the subject of an informal advisory opinion.

  4. Publication of Opinions. The Committee may publish its formal opinions or summaries of its opinions.

  5. Non-binding. All opinions shall be advisory in nature only. No opinion shall be binding on the Judicial Review Council or the Superior Court, Appellate Court or Supreme Court in the exercise of their judicial discipline responsibilities. The Secretary to the Committee or a designee shall be available to testify at any proceeding in which a judicial official who requested an opinion seeks such testimony on an issue related to the opinion that was provided.

  6. Reconsideration. Within thirty days after notice of a formal or an informal opinion, the person who requested the opinion may petition the Committee to reconsider its opinion by submitting a request for reconsideration to the Secretary to the Committee in the form of a letter or memorandum explaining the basis for the request. The Committee shall respond to the request by either reaffirming or revising the opinion. If warranted, the Committee may reconsider an opinion at any time on its own motion.

*History: The Policy was amended by the Chief Justice, effective May 24, 2010, to eliminate the following language in Section 1: “and is not engaged in the practice of law other than in the federal courts as part of the professor’s teaching responsibilities.”

Section 10 of the Policy was amended by the Chief Justice, effective February 14, 2011, to clarify the process for the reconsideration of informal opinions.

Committee on Judicial Ethics

 

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