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Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinions of the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

These documents contain all advisory opinions issued by the Delaware Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee and by its predecessor, the Delaware Judicial Proprieties Committee. These opinions have been issued pursuant to Delaware Court on the Judiciary Rule 18 and to the rules of the Delaware Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee. The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee is authorized to "express its [advisory] opinion on proper judicial conduct with respect to the Delaware Judges' Code of Judicial Conduct [etc.]," Del. Jud. Ct. R. 18(b)(1). An index to all opinions is also provided.

Scales of Justice
Date of Opinion Summary of Opinion
Opinion Number
08/07/2014

The Delaware Judges' Code of Conduct does not require a per se rule of disqualification when a judge who previously served as a prosecutor in an unrelated matter involving a litigant now serves as the judge on a case involving the same litigant. This opinion, however, provides a judge in this situation with a non-exclusive list of enumerated factors to consider as well as guidance relating to when disqualification would be appropriate.

09/21/2012

The Delaware Judges' Code of Judicial Conduct does not permit a judge to accept an appointment to the Child Placement Review Board. The activities of the Child Placement Review Board lack the sufficient direct connection to the improvement of the legal system required by the Code. A judge's service on the Review Board could associate the judge with the protection of a particular group of citizens rather than the improvement of the legal system as a whole. Additionally, the decisions of the Review Board may generate controversy that would make judicial involvement inappropriate under the Code. Finally, the Review Board must make findings of fact, submit evidence, and appear in adversarial proceedings in the Delaware courts, making the participation of a judicial officer in the Review Board's activities inappropriate. Rules 3.4 and 3.7

05/07/2012

The Delaware Judges' Code of Conduct permits a Judge to serve as President of a Club that performs charitable activities which are supported through fund-raising activities, so long as the Judge is able to separate his duties as President from the Club’s fund-raising function and does not allow the prestige of his judicial office to be used as a fund-raising mechanism. Canons 3.7

05/03/2012

The Delaware Judges' Code of Conduct finds it permissible for the Delaware Justice of the Peace Courts (“the Courts”) to enter into an agreement with the Motor Vehicle Network (“MVN”) under which the MVN would use the video monitors located in the lobbies of the Courts to broadcast advertisements, so long as the Courts and MVN implement the proposed screening process to select the advertisements that air and include the proposed disclaimer. Canons 1.2 and 1.3

10/12/2011

The Delaware Judges' Code of Conduct finds it permissible for the Administrative Offices of the Court (AOC) to share use and access to LexisNexis as part of a joint Legal Services Agreement contract with the Department of Justice (DOJ). Such an arrangement does not give off an appearance of impropriety, hinder a judges' ability to be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence, exert external influence on the judges' conduct and judgment, or impact the judges' ability to perform the duties of his/her office impartially or diligently.

In addition, because the AOC would serve as a joint party to the Legal Services Agreement contract, the costs of accessing LexisNexis would be paid for from state general funds and would not constitute acceptance of a gift. Canons 1.2, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, and 3.13.

07/20/2011

The Delaware Judges' Code of Conduct does not permit a Judge to accept an award from a National Bar Foundation at an Annual Awards Dinner, nor does it permit such a Foundation to include the Judge's name in the event program, if it cannot be determined with certainty, that the dinner is not a fundraising event. Canon 3.7.

05/13/2011

A law clerk may not accept a salary advance, in any amount, to assist with moving and living expenses from the firm the clerk will be working for post-clerkship, prior to the end of their clerkship. Canons 2, 5, and 6.

01/05/2011

The Delaware Judges' Code of Conduct does not prohibit a Judge from serving as Master of Ceremonies at a dinner sponsored by a charitable organization where the dinner’s primary purpose is not fundraising, but to honor one or more individuals for their philanthropic service to their community.

03/05/2010
The Delaware Judges' Code of Conduct does not permit a judicial officer to work as a part-time lobbyist or as a lobbyist for part of the year, and on a per diem basis for the remainder of the year as a [redacted] judge.  Canons 1, 3 and 4.
04/20/2009
The Delaware Judges’ Code of Judicial Conduct does not prohibit a Justice of the Peace from communicating with a police officer who is a brother-in-law, provided that the communications are purely administrative in nature.  Further, a Justice of the Peace may hear cases involving police officers from that department, as long as the brother-in-law is not a witness.  Canons 1.2, 2.3, 2.9, and 2.11.  This opinion is not being filed in redacted form because confidentiality was waived by the requestor.
04/08/2009
The Delaware Judges' Code of Conduct does not prohibit civil Judges in the Justice of the Peace Courts in [redacted] County from presiding over proceedings in which a former clerk is the designated representative of an artificial entity party absent some personal relationship between a Judge and the former clerk which could call into question the Judge’s impartiality due to personal bias or prejudice, or a feeling on the part of the Judge that the former relationship will influence the Judge’s decision in a particular case.  Canons 1.2, 2.3, 2.4, and 2.11.
08/26/2008
The Delaware Judges' Code of Conduct does not prohibit a judicial intern from serving in that position when his or her spouse is a candidate for political office provided the judicial intern adheres to certain restrictions on the intern’s freedom of action and does not actively participate in any political or campaign-related activity.  Canons 1, 2, 3, and 7.
04/14/2008
The Delaware Judges' Code of Conduct finds it permissible for a judge, through their family business, to continue to bid on contracts and submit estimates to various executive department agencies of the State of Delaware, for construction and repair of furniture, for which the judge receives compensation. Canon 5 and 6.
02/20/2008
The Delaware Judges' Code of Conduct does not prohibit a judge's spouse from running for an elected seat in the Delaware General Assembly. The Judge may continue their service as a judge during the campaign and after the election. Canon 1, 2 and 7.
09/26/2007
A judge may serve on the membership committee of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges with the restrictions outlined in the opinion. Canon 4 and 5.
06/29/2007
The Delaware Judges' Code of Conduct prohibits a judge from presiding over criminal proceedings on charges filed when that judge was the Attorney General. Also, the committee concluded that a judge is disqualified from presiding over criminal proceedings on charges that resulted from investigations in which the judge was personally and substantially involved in which an Attorney General’s subpoena was issued. Canon 2 & 3.
05/09/2007
A Judge is not necessarily disqualified for one year or otherwise from hearing cases involving either the former partner or former associate of husband’s firm. Judges must be careful to avoid situations in which their impartiality reasonably might be questioned. Canon 3.
03/05/2007
A Judge should not serve as an auctioneer at a Little League fundraising event. The Judge may attend as a member of that organization, but should not be involved in soliciting funds for the organization. Canon 5.
11/28 2006
A Judge should not accept an appointment as Chair of the Governor’s Consortium on Hispanic Affairs. Canon 5.
08/14/2006
Service as a member of the Nominating Committee would violate Canon 2 that a judge avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
06/16/2006
A judicial officer who remains on active duty designation is prohibited from activating their real estate agent's license and entering into a professional relationship of real estate agent for a real estate brokerage. Canons 5C and 5D.
04/07/2006
A Judge may serve in a leadership position with the Boy Scouts of America (“BSA”) notwithstanding that the BSA maintains a policy of prohibiting homosexual scout leaders.
03/21/2006
A Judge may serve as a Special Editorial Advisor for the State Defense Force Publication Center.
02/22/ 2006
Judge should decline to join the Board of Directors of the Police Athletic League in order to avoid an appearance of partiality.
01/06/2006
A court employee may run for elective office in accordance with the Code of Conduct for Court Employees as adopted by the Supreme Court of Delaware.
12/14/2005
Judge may attend a Holiday Party hosted by Toys for Tots. Canon7 and 5B.
12/07/2005
Judge should not attend nor speak at event that has been found by the committee to be a "political gathering."  Canons 7 and 2B.
10/04/2005
Proposed Policy Directive adequately addresses any conflict of interest or perceived conflict of interest that may exist arising from the assignment of judicial or other professional responsibilities to the Judge's father. Canons 2A & 2 B.
01/19/2005
Judge may not initiate a professional affiliation with wife's real estate brokerage agency since such affiliation would violate Canons 5(C) and 5(D) of the Delaware Judges' Code of Conduct.
12/30/2004
Judge may attend an awards banquet hosted by the sister of a litigant who had appeared before the judge without violating Canons 2(a) and 2(B) of the Delaware Judges' Code of Conduct.
12/16/2004
Judge may accept employment as a basketball referee for a non-profit organization and receive reasonable compensation without violation of Canons 5(B) and 5(C) of the Delaware Judges' Code of Conduct.
11/01/2004
Judge may hire brother's "niece-in-law" as a law clerk without violation of Canon 3B(4) of the Delaware Judges' Code of Conduct.
09/08/2004
Whether the prospective disqualification of an Associate Judge from cases involving the parent of his Judicial Secretary will lead to the disqualification of other Judges of the court in those matters and whether the employment of this Judicial Secretary creates a conflict or the appearance of impropriety. Canon 3.
08/26/2004
Arrangements with a former law firm for withdrawing from and severing financial ties. Canon 5C.
04/13/2004
Authoring a foreword to an autobiography authored by a friend. Canons 2B, 4A, and 5A.
03/19/2002
Attendance at an event at which funds will be raised to complete a sculpture of a former Wilmington Mayor. Canon 7.
02/27/2002
Participation in Family Court "On-Call" for Ex Parte Custody Petitions. Canons 2A, 2B, and 3C(1).
01/11/2002
Judge may not perform volunteer work for detention facility to which Judge may make referrals; Judge may not loan a pony to facility; but Judge may make outright donation of pony to facility. Canon 5B.
10/19/2001
Judge may serve on Board of Directors for the Delaware Military Academy, Inc. Canon 5.
05/15/2001
Judge may serve as "Teen Court" volunteer judge. Canons 4 and 5.
06/08/2000
Judge may serve on the Board of Directors of the First State Community Action Agency. Canon 5B.
05/25/2000
Private attorney who is a member of State House of Representatives nominated by Governor for judgeship, but not yet confirmed, may participate in Memorial Day parade sponsored by Veterans of Foreign Wars. Canons 5B, 5G and 7.
May 23, 2000
Judge should not preside over any proceedings where a party is represented by judge's former firm or by firm of judge's spouse given the particular nature of the lawyer/relative relationships. Canon 2 and 3(C)(1). (Dissent to the contrary)
11/29/1999
Judge should not serve on Charitable Gaming Task Force created by the General Assembly. Canons 2,4,5.B and 5G.
08/23/1999
Judge may engage in musical entertainment business subject to certain conditions. Canon 5.C(1).
04/22/1999
Judge should not serve as Chairperson or as a member of the Ethics Review Committee of a local school district. Canons 2,4,5.B and 5G.
08/31/1998
Judge should not "ride along" with a police officer to observe police duties since that activity does not promote integrity and independence of judiciary and creates an appearance of impropriety. Canons 1.A., 2 and 2.A.
02/18/1998
Court Commissioner could remain in a musical band that sells its recordings to raise money for non-profit charities, but should not personally engage in solicitation. Canon 5.B.(2).
02/05/1998
Judge should not serve on a committee of judge's church whose purpose is to collect unpaid tuition due to a school operated by the church. Canons 5.B.(2) and 2.B.
01/23/1998
Judge could serve on the "Continuing Advisory Council" of a university since the university is not likely to regularly engage in proceedings in the judge's court and since the business of the Council is not conducted for economic or political advantage of its members. Canons 5.A. and 5.B.
12/09/1997
Judge should not provide testimonial and photograph for law school's capital campaign. Canon 5.B.(2).
11/20/1997
1) Judge need not be disqualified where the father of a prospective witness in a pending case is a painting subcontractor who is completing painting work in the judge's home; 2) Judge should nevertheless disclose relevant facts. Canons 2 and 3.
09/23/1997
Although Judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned where medical professionals treating that judge's child appear as expert witnesses before that judge, the judge may, if satisfied of impartiality, follow the procedure for remittal of disqualification. Canons 3.C. and 3.D.
09/22/ 1997
Judge may serve as an independent agent soliciting customers for long distance telephone accounts so long as solicitation is minimal and is limited to persons whose presence in a case would require disqualification by that judge in any event. Canons 2.B., 5.C.(1) and (2).
04/11/1997
Judge may research, document and publish any findings with regard to the unsuccessful efforts to integrate Milford High School in 1954. Canons 2B, 3.A.(6), 3.C.(2) and 5.C.(2).
09/11/1996
1) Judge may serve as successor trustee for trusts created by judge's close friends for the friends' children; 2) judge may also serve as an "alternate patient advocate" for judge's close friends if health care decisions must be made on their behalf. Canon 5.D.
07/25/1996
Judge may serve as an honorary chair of an important anniversary at a local independent school but must abide by Canon 5's proscriptions re fund raising. Canon 5.B.
05/28/1996
1) Judge may accept an invitation to speak at Australian law schools and at certain other Australian legal gatherings on the role of the Supreme Court of Delaware in corporate law in the United States; 2) reimbursement for this law-related activity is permitted. Canons 4.A., 5.C.(4) and 6.
03/25/1996
Justices of the Peace need not automatically recuse themselves from cases in which one of the lawyers is a member of the Magistrate Screening Committee. Canons 1, 3.A.(2) and 3.C.(1).
04/11/1995
Judge may participate in a Collection Law Seminar sponsored by a for-profit entity under certain conditions. Canons 2.B., 4.A. and 6.
09/29/1994
1) Justice of the Peace could preside "in same district" where that judge's son is a sergeant with the Delaware State Police, Canon 3.C.(1)(d)(iv); 2) Justice of the Peace should, however, not work in Milford area or hear cases involving Milford Police Department since Milford Police Department is of "smaller size," Canon 3.C.(1)(d)(iii); 3) Justice of the Peace should not serve as a member or officer of the National Legislative Committee of the Marine Corps League, Canons 4 and 5.B.
01/06/1994
Judge's participation in a non-profit bar review course would be proper. Canons 2 and 6.
05/08/1992
Sole practitioner confirmed as Family Court judge could "wind up pending matters" in Family Court before investiture. (Dissent to the contrary).
02/11/1992
Judge could serve as Chairman of Board of Directors of a non-profit theatrical organization. Canon 5.B.(2).
01/09/1992
Judge could serve on the State House of Representatives Labor and Human Resource Special Committee on State Personnel Re-classifications Canons 4.B. and C.
01/09/1992
Judge's friendship with practicing attorney (and where judge was in that attorney's wedding party) does not require disqualification. Canon 2.
01/09/1992
Judge may "as a parent and citizen" serve as a member of the "Delaware 2000 [Educational] Forum." Canons 4 and 5.B.
10/07/1991
Judge should not serve as Chair of the Mental Health Code Revision Committee since its purpose was to recommend proposed legislation. Canons 4 and 5.
10/23/1990
Deputy Alderman in Newark Alderman's Court who was a part-time instructor at the University of Delaware should be disqualified from University of Delaware cases or cases involving that Deputy Alderman's own students.
12/19/1989
Judge could speak at conference on matrimonial law sponsored by for-profit corporation. (Opinion mentions but does not discuss fact that judge was offered no compensation for participation nor would any reasonable expenses be reimbursed). Canons 2.B. and 4.A.
03/23/1987
Judge could serve on Board of Directors of the Delaware Community Foundation. Canon 5.
03/23/1987
Newly appointed judge should ask candidate for political office to be relieved of judge's prior pledge to make a campaign contribution. Canon 7.A.(3),(4) and 7.C.; 2) judge may serve as a trustee of a religious organization that maintains and manages church properties. Canon 5.B.
12/23/1986
Judge could not teach in bar review course offered by both Delaware Law School and by the Delaware State Bar Association since it was "in [commercial] competition" with another bar review course run by a member of the Delaware Bar. Canon 4.A.
09/30/1985
Judge who taught law at Delaware Law School could not serve as an arbitrator. Canon 5.E.
04/17/1985
Judge should not serve as a member of the Dover Charter Review Committee. Canons 5.B. and 5.G.