I wrote this article to collect some cautionary material about “what gets judges in trouble.” I wanted something I could offer to our state judges, practitioners, and my legal ethics students. While I have never been a judge, and while I have never worked for a judicial conduct organization, I have been a law professor for almost twenty-five years and the chairman of a state bar association ethics committee for fourteen. I am not the kind of person who would refrain from holding forth just because I may not know what I am talking about.
When I started out, I naturally assumed that what my audience would want and need was some kind of scholarly and uplifting essay on the Code of Judicial Conduct. Being an academic lawyer who is no longer in the trenches, I naturally assumed that judges get into trouble because they are not familiar with the intricacies of that Byzantine document, and the less than obvious traps and pitfalls contained in it. If that is what you are looking for, I will not disappoint you. I will talk about the Code of Judicial Conduct. Indeed, I will give you a short list of what I believe may be the most frequently violated provisions. However, I must discuss a great deal more than the Code of Judicial Conduct; because when I really looked into the question of "what gets judges in trouble," I discovered that other troubling forces are at work out there in the "Real World." Here is what I discovered, and I hope that some of it amazes you, or we are in worse trouble than even I thought.
Richard H. Underwood, What Gets Judges in Trouble, 23 J. Nat'l Ass'n Admin. L. Judges 101 (2003).