KENTUCKY CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT
(as of 6/1/2003)
SCR 4.300 KENTUCKY CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT
A judge shall uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary.
A judge shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the
A judge shall perform the duties of judicial office impartially and diligently.
A judge shall so conduct the judge's extra-judicial activities as to minimize
the risk of conflict with judicial obligations.
A judge or judicial candidate shall refrain from inappropriate political
APPLICATION OF THE CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT
Our legal system is based on the principle that an independent, fair and
competent judiciary will interpret and apply the laws that govern us. The role
of the judiciary is central to American and Kentucky concepts of justice and the
rule of law. Intrinsic to all sections of this Code are the precepts that
judges, individually and collectively, must respect and honor the judicial
office as a public trust and strive to enhance and maintain confidence in our
legal system. The judge is an arbiter of facts and law for the resolution of
disputes and a highly visible symbol of government under the rule of law.
The Code of Judicial Conduct is intended to establish standards for ethical
conduct of judges. It consists of broad statements called Canons, specific rules
set forth in Sections under each Canon, a Terminology Section, An Application
Section and Commentary. The text of the Canons and the Sections, including the
Terminology and Application Sections, is authoritative. The Commentary, by
explanation and example, provides guidance with respect to the purpose and
meaning of the Canons and Sections. The Commentary is not intended as a
statement of additional rules. When the text uses "shall" or "shall not," it is
intended to impose binding obligations the violation of which can result in
disciplinary action. When "should" or "should not" is used, the text is intended
as hortatory and as a statement of what is or is not appropriate conduct but not
as a binding rule under which a judge may be disciplined. When "may" is used, it
denotes permissible discretion or, depending on the context, it refers to action
that is not covered by specific proscriptions.
The Canons and Sections are rules of reason. They should be applied
consistent with constitutional requirements, statutes, other court rules and
decisional law and in the context of all relevant circumstances, including the
varying degrees of responsibility and administrative functions of different
levels of courts. The Code is to be construed so as not to impinge on the
essential discretion of judges in making judicial decisions.
The Code is designed to provide guidance to judges and candidates for
judicial office and to provide a structure for regulating conduct through
disciplinary agencies. It is not designed or intended as a basis for civil
liability or criminal prosecution. Furthermore, the purpose of the Code would be
subverted if the Code were invoked by lawyers for mere tactical advantage in a
The text of the Canons and Sections is intended to govern conduct of judges
and to be binding upon them. It is not intended, however, that every
transgression will result in disciplinary action. Whether disciplinary action is
appropriate, and the degree of discipline to be imposed, should be determined
through a reasonable and reasoned application of the text and should depend on
such factors as the seriousness of the transgression, whether there is a pattern
of improper activity and the effect of the improper activity on others or on the
The Code of Judicial Conduct is not intended as an exhaustive guide for the
conduct of judges. They should also be governed in their judicial and personal
conduct by general ethical standards. The Code is intended, however, to state
basic standards which should govern the conduct of all judges and to provide
guidance to assist judges in establishing and maintaining high standards of
judicial and personal conduct.
"Appropriate authority" denotes the authority with responsibility for initiation
of disciplinary process with respect to the violation to be reported.
"Candidate." A candidate is a person seeking selection for or retention in
judicial office by election or appointment. A person becomes a candidate for
judicial office as soon as he or she makes a public announcement of candidacy,
declares or files as a candidate with the election or appointment authority, or
authorizes solicitation or acceptance of contributions or support. The term
"candidate" has the same meaning when applied to a judge seeking election or
appointment to non-judicial office.
"Court personnel" does not include the lawyers in a proceeding before a judge.
"De minimis" denotes an insignificant interest that could not raise reasonable
question as to a judge's impartiality.
"Economic interest" denotes ownership of a more than de minimis legal or
equitable interest, or a relationship as officer, director, advisor or other
active participant in the affairs of a party, except that:
(i) ownership of an interest in a mutual or common investment
fund that holds securities is not an economic interest in such securities unless
the judge participates in the management of the fund or a proceeding pending or
impending before the judge could substantially affect the value of the interest;
(ii) service by a judge as an officer, director, advisor or
other active participant in an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or
civic organization, or service by a judge's spouse, parent or child as an
officer, director, advisor or other active participant in any organization does
not create an economic interest in securities held by that organization;
(iii) a deposit in a financial institution, the proprietary
interest of a policy holder in a mutual insurance company, of a depositor in a
mutual savings association or of a member in a credit union, or a similar
proprietary interest, is not an economic interest in the organization unless a
proceeding pending or impending before the judge could substantially affect the
value of the interest;
(iv) ownership of government securities is not an economic
interest in the issuer unless a proceeding pending or impending before the judge
could substantially affect the value of the securities.
"Fiduciary" includes such relationships as executor, administrator, trustee, and
"Knowingly," "knowledge," "known" or "knows" denotes actual knowledge of the
fact in question. A person's knowledge may be inferred from circumstances.
"Law" denotes court rules as well as statutes, constitutional provisions and
"Member of the candidate's family" denotes a spouse, child, grandchild, parent,
grandparent or other relative or person with whom the candidate maintains a
close familial relationship.
"Member of the judge's family" denotes a spouse, child, grandchild, parent,
grandparent, or other relative or person with whom the judge maintains a close
"Member of the judge's family residing in the judge's household" denotes any
relative of a judge by blood or marriage, or a person treated by a judge as a
member of the judge's family, who resides in the judge's household.
"Nonpublic information" denotes information that, by law, is not available to
the public. Nonpublic information may include but is not limited to: information
that is sealed by statute or court order, impounded or communicated in camera;
and information offered in grand jury proceedings, presentencing reports,
dependency cases or psychiatric reports.
"Political organization" denotes a political party or other group, the principal
purpose of which is to further the election or appointment of candidates to
"Public election." This term includes primary and general elections; it includes
partisan elections, nonpartisan elections and retention elections.
"Require." The rules prescribing that a judge "require" certain conduct of
others are, like all of the rules in this Code, rules of reason. The use of the
term "require" in that context means a judge is to exercise reasonable direction
and control over the conduct of those persons subject to the judge's direction
"Third degree of relationship." The following persons are relatives within the
third degree of relationship: great-grandparent, grandparent, parent, uncle,
aunt, brother, sister, child, grandchild, great-grandchild, nephew or niece.
CANON 1: A JUDGE SHALL UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY AND INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY
An independent and honorable judiciary is indispensable to justice in our
society. A judge should actively participate in establishing, maintaining and
enforcing high standards of conduct, and shall personally observe those
standards so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary will be
preserved. The provisions of this Code are to be construed and applied to
further that objective.
Deference to the judgments and rulings of courts depends upon public confidence
in the integrity and independence of judges. The integrity and independence of
judges depends in turn upon their acting without fear or favor. Although judges
should be independent, they must comply with the law, including the provisions
of this Code. Public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary is
maintained by the adherence of each judge to this responsibility. Conversely,
violation of this Code diminishes public confidence in the judiciary and thereby
does injury to the system of government under law. This Code is intended to
apply to every aspect of judicial behavior except purely legal decisions made in
good faith in the performance of judicial duties. Such decisions are subject to
judicial review. Reference is made to SCR 4.020(2).
CANON 2: A JUDGE SHALL AVOID IMPROPRIETY AND THE APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY IN
ALL OF THE JUDGE'S ACTIVITIES
A. A 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
Public confidence in the 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 constant public scrutiny.
A judge must therefore accept restrictions on the judge's conduct that might be
viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and
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 practicable to list all prohibited acts, the proscription is
necessarily cast in general terms that extend to conduct by judges that is
harmful although not specifically mentioned in the Code. Actual improprieties
under this standard include violations of law, court rules or other 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 judicial responsibilities with integrity, impartiality and
competence is impaired. See also Commentary under Section 2E.
B. A judge may properly lend the prestige of the judge's office to advance the
public interest in the administration of justice.
C. A judge may actively support public agencies or interests or testify
voluntarily on public matters concerning the law, the legal system, the
provision of legal services, and the administration of justice.
D. A judge shall not allow family, social, political or other relationships
to impair the judge's objectivity. A judge shall not lend the prestige of
judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others; nor
shall a judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in
a special position to influence the judge. A judge shall not testify voluntarily
as a character witness.
Maintaining the prestige of judicial office is essential to a system of
government in which the judiciary functions independently of the executive and
legislative branches. Respect for the judicial office facilitates the orderly
conduct of legitimate judicial functions. Judges should distinguish between
proper and improper use of the prestige of office in all of their activities.
For example, it would be improper for a judge to allude to his or her judgeship
to gain a personal advantage such as deferential treatment when stopped by a
police officer for a traffic offense. Similarly, judicial letterhead must not be
used for conducting a judge's personal business.
A judge must avoid lending the prestige of judicial office for the advancement
of the private interests of others. For example, a judge must not use the
judge's judicial position to gain advantage in a civil suit involving a member
of the judge's family. In contracts for publication of a judge's writings, a
judge should retain control over the advertising to avoid exploitation of the
judge's office. As to the acceptance of awards, see Section 4D(5)(a) and
Commentary. A judge should be careful in the use of the judge's letterhead.
Although a judge should be sensitive to possible abuse of the prestige of
office, a judge may, based on the judge's personal knowledge, serve as a
reference or provide a letter of recommendation. However, a judge must not
initiate the communication of information to a sentencing judge or a probation
or corrections officer but may provide to such persons information for the
record in response to a formal request.
Judges may participate in the process of judicial selection by cooperating with
appointing authorities and screening committees seeking names for consideration,
and by responding to official inquiries concerning a person being considered for
a judgeship. See also Canon 5 regarding use of a judge's name in political
A judge must not testify voluntarily as a character witness because to do so may
lend the prestige of the judicial office in support of the party for whom the
judge testifies. Moreover, when a judge testifies as a witness, a lawyer who
regularly appears before the judge may be placed in the awkward position of
cross-examining the judge. A judge may, however, testify when properly summoned.
Except in unusual circumstances where the demands of justice require, a judge
should discourage a party from requiring the judge to testify as a character
E. A judge shall not hold membership in any organization that practices
invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin.
Invidious discrimination includes any action by an organization that appears to
regard some immutable individual trait, such as a person's race, gender,
religion or national origin, as odious or inferior, which is used to justify
arbitrary exclusion of persons possessing those traits from membership or
participation in the organization. On the other hand, organizations dedicated to
the preservation of religious, fraternal, sororal, spiritual, charitable, civic,
or cultural values, which do not stigmatize any excluded persons as inferior and
therefore unworthy of membership, are not considered to discriminate
Membership of a judge in an organization that practices invidious discrimination
gives rise to perceptions that the judge's impartiality is impaired. Section 2E
refers to the current practices of the organization. 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 how the
organization selects members and other relevant factors, such as that the
organization is dedicated to the preservation of religious, ethnic or cultural
values of legitimate common interest to its members, or that it is in fact and
effect an intimate, purely private organization whose membership limitations
could not be constitutionally prohibited.
An organization is generally said to discriminate invidiously if it arbitrarily
excludes from membership on the basis of race, religion, sex or national origin
persons who would otherwise be admitted to membership. See New York State Club
Ass'n., Inc. v. City of New York , 108 S. Ct. 2225, 101 L. Ed. 2d 1 (1988);
Board of Directors of Rotary International v. Rotary Club of Duarte , 481 U.S.
537, 107 S. Ct. 1940, [(1987)] 95 L. Ed. 2d 474 (1987) ; Roberts v. United
States Jaycees , 468 U.S. 609, 104 S. Ct. 3244, 82 L. Ed. 2d 462 (1984).
Although Section 2E relates only to membership in organizations that invidiously
discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin, a judge's
membership in an organization that engages in any discriminatory membership
practices prohibited by the law of the jurisdiction also violates Canon 2 and
Section 2A and gives the appearance of impropriety. In addition, it would be a
violation of Canon 2 and Section 2A for a judge to arrange a meeting at a club
that the judge knows practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race,
sex, religion or national origin in its membership or other policies, or for the
judge to regularly use such a club. Moreover, public manifestation by a judge of
the judge's knowing approval of invidious discrimination on any basis gives the
appearance of impropriety under Canon 2 and diminishes public confidence in the
integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, in violation of Section 2A.
When a person who is a judge on the date this Code becomes effective learns that
an organization to which the judge belongs engages in invidious discrimination
that would preclude membership under Section 2E or under Canon 2 and Section 2A,
the judge is permitted, in lieu of resigning, to make immediate efforts to have
the organization discontinue its invidiously discriminatory practices, but is
required to suspend participation in any other activities of the organization.
If the organization fails to discontinue its invidiously discriminatory
practices as promptly as possible (and in all events within a year of the
judge's first learning of the practices), the judge is required to resign
immediately from the organization.
CANON 3: A JUDGE SHALL PERFORM THE DUTIES OF JUDICIAL OFFICE IMPARTIALLY AND
A. Judicial Duties in General. The judicial duties of a judge take precedence
over all the judge's other activities. The judge's judicial duties include all
the duties of the judge's office prescribed by law. In the performance of these
duties, the following standards apply.
B. Adjudicative Responsibilities.
(1) A judge shall hear and decide matters assigned to the judge except those in
which disqualification is required.
(2) A judge shall be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence in
it. A judge shall not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor or fear of
(3) A judge shall require order and decorum in proceedings before the judge.
(4) A judge shall be patient, dignified and courteous to litigants, jurors,
witnesses, lawyers and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity,
and shall require similar conduct of lawyers, and of staff, court officials and
others subject to the judge's direction and control.
The duty to hear all proceedings fairly and with patience is not inconsistent
with the duty to dispose promptly of the business of the court. Judges can be
efficient and businesslike while being patient and deliberate.
(5) A judge shall perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice. A judge
shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest
bias or prejudice, including but not limited to bias or prejudice based upon
race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or
socioeconomic status, and in proceedings before the judge, shall not permit
staff, court officials and others subject to the judge's direction and control
to do so.
A judge must refrain from speech, gestures or other conduct that could
reasonably be perceived as sexual harassment and must require the same standard
of conduct of others subject to the judge's direction and control.
A judge must perform judicial duties impartially and fairly. A judge who
manifests bias on any basis in a proceeding impairs the fairness of the
proceeding and brings the judiciary into disrepute. Facial expression and body
language, in addition to oral communication, can give to parties or lawyers in
the proceeding, jurors, the media and others an appearance of judicial bias. A
judge must be alert to avoid behavior that may be perceived as prejudicial.
(6) A judge shall require lawyers in proceedings before the judge to refrain
from manifesting by words or conduct bias or prejudice based upon race, sex,
religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic
status, against parties, witnesses, counsel or others. This Section 3B(6) does
not preclude legitimate advocacy when race, sex, religion, national origin,
disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status, or other similar
factors, are issues in the proceeding.
(7) A judge shall accord to every person who has a legal interest in a
proceeding, or that person's lawyer, the right to be heard according to law.
With regard to a pending or impending proceeding, a judge shall not initiate,
permit, or consider ex parte communications with attorneys and shall not
initiate, encourage or consider ex parte communications with parties, except
(a) Where circumstances require, ex parte communications for
scheduling, initial fixing of bail, administrative purposes or emergencies that
do not deal with substantive matters or issues on the merits are authorized;
(i) the judge reasonably believes
that no party will gain a procedural or tactical advantage as a result of the ex
parte communication, and
(ii) the judge makes provision
promptly to notify all other parties of the substance of the ex parte
communication and allows an opportunity to respond.
(b) As a part of legal research, a judge may obtain the
advice of a disinterested expert on the law applicable to a proceeding before
(c) A judge may consult with court personnel whose function
is to aid the judge in carrying out the judge's adjudicative responsibilities or
with other judges.
(d) A judge may, with the consent of the parties, confer
separately with the parties and their lawyers in an effort to mediate or settle
matters pending before the judge.
(e) A judge may initiate or consider any ex parte
communications when expressly authorized by law to do so.
The proscription against communications concerning a proceeding includes
communications from lawyers, and other persons who are not participants in the
proceeding, except to the limited extent permitted.
To the extent reasonably possible, all parties or their lawyers shall be
included in communications with a judge.
Whenever presence of a party or notice to a party is required by Section 3B(7),
it is the party's lawyer, or if the party is unrepresented the party, who is to
be present or to whom notice is to be given.
An appropriate and often desirable procedure for a court to obtain the advice of
a disinterested expert on legal issues is to invite the expert to file a brief
Certain ex parte communication is approved by Section 3B(7) to facilitate
scheduling and other administrative purposes and to accommodate emergencies. In
general, however, a judge must discourage ex parte communication and allow it
only if all the criteria stated in Section 3B(7) are clearly met. A judge must
disclose to all parties all ex parte communications described in Sections
3B(7)(a) regarding a proceeding pending or impending before the judge.
A judge must not independently investigate facts in a case and must consider
only the evidence presented.
A judge may request a party to submit proposed findings of fact and conclusions
of law, so long as the other parties are apprised of the request and are given
an opportunity to respond to the proposed findings and conclusions.
A judge must make reasonable efforts, including the provision of appropriate
supervision, to ensure that Section 3B(7) is not violated through law clerks or
other personnel on the judge's staff.
If communication between the trial judge and the appellate court with respect to
a proceeding is permitted, a copy of any written communication or the substance
of any oral communication should be provided to all parties.
(8) A judge shall dispose of all judicial matters promptly, efficiently and
In disposing of matters promptly, efficiently and fairly, a judge must
demonstrate due regard for the rights of the parties to be heard and to have
issues resolved without unnecessary cost or delay. Containing costs while
preserving fundamental rights of parties also protects the interests of
witnesses and the general public. A judge should monitor and supervise cases so
as to reduce or eliminate dilatory practices, avoidable delays and unnecessary
costs. A judge should encourage and seek to facilitate settlement, but parties
should not feel coerced into surrendering the right to have their controversy
resolved by the courts.
Prompt disposition of the court's business requires a judge to devote adequate
time to judicial duties, to be punctual in attending court and expeditious in
determining matters under submission, and to insist that court officials,
litigants and their lawyers cooperate with the judge to that end.
(9) A judge shall not, while a proceeding is pending or impending in any court,
make any public comment that might reasonably be expected to affect its outcome
or impair its fairness or make any nonpublic comment that might substantially
interfere with a fair trial or hearing. The judge shall require similar
abstention on the part of court personnel subject to the judge's direction and
control. This Section does not prohibit judges from making public statements in
the course of their official duties or from explaining for public information
the procedures of the court. This Section does not apply to proceedings in which
the judge is a litigant in a personal capacity.
The requirement that judges abstain from public comment regarding a pending or
impending proceeding continues during any appellate process and until final
disposition. This Section does not prohibit a judge from commenting on
proceedings in which the judge is a litigant in a personal capacity, but in
cases such as a writ of mandamus where the judge is a litigant in an official
capacity, the judge must not comment publicly. The conduct of lawyers relating
to trial publicity is governed by SCR 3.130(3.6).
(10) A judge shall not commend or criticize jurors for their verdict other than
in a court order or opinion in a proceeding, but may express appreciation to
jurors for their service to the judicial system and the community.
Commending or criticizing jurors for their verdict may imply a judicial
expectation in future cases and may impair a juror's ability to be fair and
impartial in a subsequent case.
(11) A judge shall not disclose or use, for any purpose unrelated to judicial
duties, nonpublic information acquired in a judicial capacity.
C. Administrative Responsibilities.
(1) A judge shall diligently discharge the judge's administrative
responsibilities without bias or prejudice and maintain professional competence
in judicial administration, and should cooperate with other judges and court
officials in the administration of court business.
(2) A judge shall require a judge's staff and those subject to the judge's
direction and control and should encourage other court officials to observe the
standards of fidelity and diligence that apply to the judge and to refrain from
manifesting bias or prejudice in the performance of their official duties.
(3) A judge with supervisory authority for the judicial performance of other
judges shall take reasonable measures to assure the prompt disposition of
matters before them and the proper performance of their other judicial
(4) A judge shall not make unnecessary appointments. A judge shall exercise the
power of appointment impartially and on the basis of merit. A judge shall avoid
nepotism and favoritism. A judge shall not approve compensation of appointees
beyond the fair value of services rendered.
Appointees of a judge include assigned counsel, officials such as referees,
commissioners, special masters, receivers and guardians and personnel such as
clerks, secretaries and bailiffs. Consent by the parties to an appointment or an
award of compensation does not relieve the judge of the obligation prescribed by
D. Disciplinary Responsibilities.
(1) A judge who receives information indicating a substantial likelihood that
another judge has committed a violation of this Code should take appropriate
action. A judge having knowledge that another judge has committed a violation of
this Code that raises a substantial question as to the other judge's fitness for
office should inform the appropriate authority.
(2) A judge who receives information indicating a substantial likelihood that a
lawyer has committed a violation of the Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct
should take appropriate action. A judge having knowledge that a lawyer has
committed a violation of the Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct that raises
a substantial question as to the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as
a lawyer in other respects should inform the appropriate authority.
(3) A judge acting in good faith in the discharge of disciplinary
responsibilities required or permitted by Sections 3D(1) and 3D(2) shall be
immune from any action, civil or criminal.
Appropriate action may include direct communication with the judge or lawyer who
has committed the violation, other direct action if available, and reporting the
violation to the appropriate authority or other agency or body. A judge should
comply with KRS 26A.080.
(1) A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the
judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited
to instances where:
Under this rule, a judge is disqualified whenever the judge's impartiality might
reasonably be questioned, regardless whether any of the specific rules in
Section 3E(1) apply. For example, if a judge were in the process of negotiating
for employment with a law firm, the judge would be disqualified from any matters
in which that law firm appeared, unless the disqualification was waived by the
parties after disclosure by the judge.
A judge should disclose on the record information that the judge believes the
parties or their lawyers might consider relevant to the question of
disqualification, even if the judge believes there is no real basis for
By decisional law, the rule of necessity may override the rule of
disqualification. For example, a judge might be required to participate in
judicial review of a judicial salary statute, or might be the only judge
available in a matter requiring immediate judicial action, such as a hearing on
probable cause or a temporary restraining order. In the latter case, the judge
must disclose on the record the basis for possible disqualification and use
reasonable efforts to transfer the matter to another judge as soon as
(a) the judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or a party's
lawyer, or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the
Dislike of a party or a party's lawyer does not, by itself, constitute a
personal bias or prejudice.
(b) the judge served as a lawyer in the matter in controversy, or a lawyer with
whom the judge previously practiced law served during such association as a
lawyer concerning the matter, or the judge has been a material witness
A lawyer in a government agency does not ordinarily have an association with
other lawyers employed by that agency within the meaning of Section 3E(1)(b); a
judge formerly employed by a government agency, however, should disqualify
himself or herself in a proceeding if the judge's impartiality might reasonably
be questioned because of such association.
(c) the judge knows that he or she, individually or as a fiduciary, or the
judge's spouse, parent or minor child residing in the judge's household, has any
interest, more than a de minimis interest, in the subject matter in controversy
or in a party to the proceeding that could be substantially affected by the
(d) the judge or the judge's spouse, or a person within the third degree of
relationship to either of them, or the spouse of such a person:
(i) is a party to the proceeding, or an officer, director or
trustee of a party;
(ii) is acting as a lawyer in the proceeding;
(iii) is known by the judge to have a more than de minimis
interest that could be substantially affected by the proceeding;
(iv) is to the judge's knowledge likely to be a material
witness in the proceeding.
The fact that a lawyer in a proceeding is affiliated with a law firm with which
a relative of the judge is affiliated does not of itself disqualify the judge.
Under appropriate circumstances, the fact that "the judge's impartiality might
reasonably be questioned" under Section 3E(1), or that the relative is known by
the judge to have an interest in the law firm that could be "substantially
affected by the outcome of the proceeding" under Section 3E(1)(d)(iii) may
require the judge's disqualification.
(2) A judge shall keep informed about the judge's personal and fiduciary
economic interests, and make a reasonable effort to keep informed about the
personal economic interests of the judge's spouse and minor children residing in
the judge's household.
F. Remittal of Disqualification. A judge disqualified by the terms of Section 3E
may disclose on the record the basis of the judge's disqualification and may ask
the parties and their lawyers to consider, out of the presence of the judge,
whether to waive disqualification. If following disclosure of any basis for
disqualification other than personal bias or prejudice concerning a party, the
parties and lawyers, without participation by the judge, all agree that the
judge should not be disqualified, and the judge is then willing to participate,
the judge may participate in the proceeding. The agreement, signed by all
parties and lawyers, shall be incorporated in the record of the proceeding.
A remittal procedure provides the parties an opportunity to proceed without
delay if they wish to waive the disqualification. To assure that consideration
of the question of remittal is made independently of the judge, a judge must not
solicit, seek or hear comment on possible remittal or waiver of the
disqualification unless the lawyers jointly propose remittal after consultation
as provided in the rule. A party may act through counsel if counsel represents
on the record that the party has been consulted and consents.
CANON 4: A JUDGE SHALL SO CONDUCT THE JUDGE'S EXTRA-JUDICIAL ACTIVITIES AS TO
MINIMIZE THE RISK OF CONFLICT WITH JUDICIAL OBLIGATIONS
A. Extra-judicial Activities in General. A judge shall conduct all of the
judge's extra-judicial activities so that they do not:
(1) cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge;
(2) demean the judicial office; or
(3) interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties.
Complete separation of a judge from extra-judicial activities is neither
possible nor wise; a judge should not become isolated from the community in
which the judge lives.
Expressions of bias or prejudice by a judge, even outside the judge's judicial
activities, may cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially
as a judge. Expressions which may do so include jokes or other remarks demeaning
individuals on the basis of their race, sex, religion, national origin,
disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status. See Section 2E and
B. Avocational Activities. A judge may speak, write, lecture, teach and
participate in other extra-judicial activities concerning the law, the legal
system, the administration of justice and non-legal subjects, subject to the
requirements of this Code.
As a judicial officer and person specially learned in the law, a judge is in a
unique position to contribute to the improvement of the law, the legal system,
and the administration of justice, including revision of substantive and
procedural law and improvement of criminal and juvenile justice. To the extent
that time permits, a judge is encouraged to do so, either independently or
through a bar association, judicial conference or other organization dedicated
to the improvement of the law. Judges may participate in efforts to promote the
fair administration of justice, the independence of the judiciary and the
integrity of the legal profession and may express opposition to the persecution
of lawyers and judges in other countries because of their professional
In this and other Sections of Canon 4, the phrase "subject to the requirements
of this Code" is used, notably in connection with a judge's governmental, civic
or charitable activities. This phrase is included to remind judges that the use
of permissive language in various Sections of the Code does not relieve a judge
from the other requirements of the Code that apply to the specific conduct.
C. Governmental, Civic or Charitable Activities.
(1) A judge shall not appear at a public hearing before, or otherwise consult
with, an executive or legislative body or official except on matters concerning
the law, the legal system or the administration of justice or except when acting
pro se in a matter involving the judge or the judge's interests.
See Section 2D regarding the obligation to avoid improper influence.
(2) A judge shall not accept appointment to a governmental committee or
commission or other governmental position that is concerned with issues of fact
or policy on matters other than the improvement of the law, the legal system or
the administration of justice. A judge may accept appointment to a governmental
committee or commission where a judicial appointment is authorized or required
by law. A judge may represent a country, state or locality on ceremonial
occasions or in connection with historical, educational or cultural activities.
Section 4C(2) prohibits a judge from accepting any governmental position except
one relating to the law, legal system or administration of justice as authorized
by Section 4C(3). The appropriateness of accepting extra-judicial assignments
must be assessed in light of the demands on judicial resources created by
crowded dockets and the need to protect the courts from involvement in
extra-judicial matters that may prove to be controversial. Judges should not
accept governmental appointments that are likely to interfere with the
effectiveness and independence of the judiciary.
Section 4C(2) does not govern a judge's service in a nongovernmental position.
See Section 4C(3) permitting service by a judge with organizations devoted to
the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice
and with educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic organizations
not conducted for profit. For example, service on the board of a public
educational institution, unless it were a law school, would be prohibited under
Section 4C(2), but service on the board of a public law school or any private
educational institution would generally be permitted under Section 4C(3).
(3) A judge may serve as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of
an organization or governmental agency devoted to the improvement of the law,
the legal system or the administration of justice or of an educational,
religious, charitable, fraternal or civic organization not conducted for profit,
subject to the following limitations and the other requirements of this Code.
Section 4C(3) does not apply to a judge's service in a governmental position
unconnected with the improvement of the law, the legal system or the
administration of justice; see Section 4C(2).
See Commentary to Section 4B regarding use of the phrase "subject to the
following limitations and the other requirements of this Code." As an example of
the meaning of the phrase, a judge permitted by Section 4C(3) to serve on the
board of a fraternal institution may be prohibited from such service by Sections
2C or 4A if the institution practices invidious discrimination or if service on
the board otherwise casts reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act
impartially as a judge.
Service by a judge on behalf of a civic or charitable organization may be
governed by other provisions of Canon 4 in addition to Section 4C. For example,
a judge is prohibited by Section 4G from serving as a legal advisor to a civic
or charitable organization.
(a) A judge shall not serve as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal
advisor if it is likely that the organization
(i) will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the judge,
(ii) will be engaged frequently in adversary proceedings in the court of which
the judge is a member or in any court subject to the appellate jurisdiction of
the court of which the judge is a member.
(iii) by reason of its purpose, will have a substantial interest in other
proceedings in the Court in which the judge is a member or in any court subject
to the appellate jurisdiction of the court of which the judge is a member.
The changing nature of some organizations and of their relationship to the law
makes it necessary for a judge regularly to reexamine the activities of each
organization with which the judge is affiliated to determine if it is proper for
the judge to continue the affiliation. For example, in many jurisdictions
charitable hospitals are now more frequently in court than in the past.
Similarly, the boards of some legal aid organizations now make policy decisions
that may have political significance or imply commitment to causes that may come
before the courts for adjudication. Some educational, religious, charitable,
fraternal or civic organizations are so large, or have such an impact on the
public, that they are either frequently before the courts or are substantially
interested in other similar organizations who are frequently before the courts.
(b) A judge as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor, or as a
member or otherwise:
(i) may assist such an organization in planning fund-raising and may participate
in the management and investment of the organization's funds, but shall not
personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fund- raising
(ii) may make recommendations to public and private fund-granting organizations
on projects and programs concerning the law, the legal system or the
administration of justice;
(iii) shall not personally participate in membership solicitation if the
solicitation might reasonably be perceived as coercive or if the membership
solicitation is essentially a fund-raising mechanism;
(iv) shall not use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for
fund-raising or membership solicitation.
A judge may solicit membership or endorse or encourage membership efforts for an
organization devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the
administration of justice or a nonprofit educational, religious, charitable,
fraternal or civic organization as long as the solicitation cannot reasonably be
perceived as coercive and is not essentially a fund-raising mechanism.
Solicitation of funds for an organization and solicitation of memberships
similarly involve the danger that the person solicited will feel obligated to
respond favorably to the solicitor if the solicitor is in a position of
influence or control. A judge must not engage in direct, individual solicitation
of funds or memberships in person, in writing or by telephone except in the
following cases: 1) a judge may solicit for memberships other judges over whom
the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority, 2) a judge may
solicit other persons for membership in the organizations described above if
neither those persons nor persons with whom they are affiliated are likely ever
to appear before the court on which the judge serves and 3) a judge who is an
officer of such an organization may send a general membership solicitation
mailing over the judge's signature.
Use of an organization letterhead for fund-raising or membership solicitation
does not violate Section 4C(3)(b) provided the letterhead lists only the judge's
name and office or other position in the organization, and, if comparable
designations are listed for other persons, the judge's judicial designation. In
addition, a judge must also make reasonable efforts to ensure that the judge's
staff, court officials and others subject to the judge's direction and control
do not solicit funds on the judge's behalf for any purpose, charitable or
A judge must not be a speaker or guest of honor at an organization's fund-
raising event, but mere attendance at such an event is permissible if otherwise
consistent with this Code.
D. Financial Activities.
(1) A judge shall not engage in financial and business dealings that:
(a) may reasonably be perceived to exploit the judge's judicial position, or
(b) involve the judge in frequent transactions or continuing business
relationships with those lawyers or other persons likely to come before the
court on which the judge serves.
The Time for Compliance provision of this Code (Application, Section F)
postpones the time for compliance with certain provisions of this Section in
When a judge acquires in a judicial capacity information, such as material
contained in filings with the court, that is not yet generally known, the judge
must not use the information for private gain. See Section 2B; see also Section
A judge must avoid financial and business dealings that involve the judge in
frequent transactions or continuing business relationships with persons likely
to come either before the judge personally or before other judges on the judge's
court. In addition, a judge should discourage members of the judge's family from
engaging in dealings that would reasonably appear to exploit the judge's
judicial position. This rule is necessary to avoid creating an appearance of
exploitation of office or favoritism and to minimize the potential for
disqualification. With respect to affiliation of relatives of judges with law
firms appearing before the judge, see Commentary to Section 3E(1) relating to
Participation by a judge in financial and business dealings is subject to the
general prohibitions in Section 4A against activities that tend to reflect
adversely on impartiality, demean the judicial office, or interfere with the
proper performance of judicial duties. Such participation is also subject to the
general prohibition in Canon 2 against activities involving impropriety or the
appearance of impropriety and the prohibition in Section 2B against the misuse
of the prestige of judicial office. In addition, a judge must maintain high
standards of conduct in all of the judge's activities, as set forth in Canon 1.
See Commentary for Section 4B regarding use of the phrase "subject to the
requirements of this Code."
(2) A judge may, subject to the requirements of this Code, hold and manage
investments of the judge and members of the judge's family, including real
estate, and engage in other remunerative activity.
This Section provides that, subject to the requirements of this Code, a judge
may hold and manage investments owned solely by the judge, investments owned
solely by a member or members of the judge's family, and investments owned
jointly by the judge and members of the judge's family.
(3) A judge may serve as an officer, director, manager, general partner, advisor
or employee of any business entity subject to the following limitations and the
other requirements of this Code:
(a) A judge shall not be involved with any business entity
(i) generally held in disrepute in the community, or
(ii) likely to be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the
(iii) likely to be engaged frequently in adversary proceedings in the court of
which the judge is a member or in any court subject to the appellate
jurisdiction of the court of which the judge is a member.
(b) A judge involved with any business entity may assist such a business entity
in planning fund-raising and may participate in the management and investment of
the entity's funds, but shall not personally participate in the solicitation of
funds, the raising of capital or the selling of stock in such a manner as to use
or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for promotion of the
Subject to the requirements of this Code, a judge may participate in a business.
Although participation by a judge in a business might otherwise be permitted by
Section 4D(3), a judge may be prohibited from participation by other provisions
of this Code when, for example, the business entity frequently appears before
the judge's court or the participation requires significant time away from
judicial duties. Similarly, a judge must avoid participating in a business if
the judge's participation would involve misuse of the prestige of judicial
(4) A judge shall manage the judge's investments and other financial interests
to minimize the number of cases in which the judge is disqualified. As soon as
the judge can do so without serious financial detriment, the judge shall divest
himself or herself of investments and other financial interests that might
require frequent disqualification.
(5) A judge shall not accept, and shall urge members of the judge's family
residing in the judge's household, not to accept, a gift, bequest, favor or loan
from anyone except for:
Section 4D(5) does not apply to contributions to a judge's campaign for judicial
office, a matter governed by Canon 5.
Because a gift, bequest, favor or loan to a member of the judge's family
residing in the judge's household might be viewed as intended to influence the
judge, a judge must inform those family members of the relevant ethical
constraints upon the judge in this regard and discourage those family members
from violating them. A judge cannot, however, reasonably be expected to know or
control all of the financial or business activities of all family members
residing in the judge's household.
(a) a gift incident to a public testimonial, books, tapes and other resource
materials supplied by publishers on a complimentary basis for official use, or
an invitation to the judge and the judge's spouse or guest to attend a bar-
related function or an activity devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal
system or the administration of justice;
Acceptance of an invitation to a law-related function is governed by Section
4D(5)(a); acceptance of an invitation paid for by an individual lawyer or group
of lawyers is governed by Section 4D(5)(h).
A judge may accept a public testimonial or a gift incident thereto only if the
donor organization is not an organization whose members comprise or frequently
represent the same side in litigation, and the testimonial and gift are
otherwise in compliance with other provisions of this Code. See Sections 4A(1)
(b) a gift, award or benefit incident to the business, profession or other
separate activity of a spouse or other family member of a judge residing in the
judge's household, including gifts, awards and benefits for the use of both the
spouse or other family member and the judge (as spouse or family member),
provided the gift, award or benefit could not reasonably be perceived as
intended to influence the judge in the performance of judicial duties;
(c) ordinary social hospitality or customary expressions of sympathy;
(d) a gift from a relative or friend, for a special occasion, such as a wedding,
anniversary or birthday, if the gift is fairly commensurate with the occasion
and the relationship;
A gift to a judge, or to a member of the judge's family living in the judge's
household, that is excessive in value raises questions about the judge's
impartiality and the integrity of the judicial office and might require
disqualification of the judge where disqualification would not otherwise be
required. See, however, Section 4D(5)(e).
(e) a gift, bequest, favor or loan from a relative or close personal friend
whose appearance or interest in a case would in any event require
disqualification under Section 3E;
(f) a loan from a lending institution in its regular course of business on the
same terms generally available to persons who are not judges;
(g) a scholarship or fellowship awarded on the same terms and based on the same
criteria applied to other applicants; or
(h) any other gift, bequest, favor or loan, only if: the donor is not a party or
other person who has come or is likely to come or whose interests have come or
are likely to come before the judge.
Section 4D(5)(h) prohibits judges from accepting gifts, favors, bequests or
loans from lawyers or their firms if they have come or are likely to come before
the judge; it also prohibits gifts, favors, bequests or loans from clients of
lawyers or their firms when the clients' interests have come or are likely to
come before the judge.
E. Fiduciary Activities.
(1) A judge shall not serve as executor, administrator or other personal
representative, trustee, guardian, attorney in fact or other fiduciary, except
for the estate, trust or person of a member of the judge's family, and then only
if such service will not interfere with the proper performance of judicial
(2) A judge shall not serve as a fiduciary if it is likely that the judge as a
fiduciary will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the
judge, or if the estate, trust or ward becomes involved in adversary proceedings
in the court on which the judge serves or one under its appellate jurisdiction.
(3) The same restrictions on financial activities that apply to a judge
personally also apply to the judge while acting in a fiduciary capacity.
The Time for Compliance provision of this Code (Application, Section F)
postpones the time for compliance with certain provisions of this Section in
The restrictions imposed by this Canon may conflict with the judge's obligation
as a fiduciary. For example, a judge should resign as trustee if detriment to
the trust would result from divestiture of holdings the retention of which would
place the judge in violation of Section 4D(4).
F. Service as Arbitrator or Mediator. A judge shall not act as an arbitrator or
mediator or otherwise perform judicial functions in a private capacity unless
expressly authorized by law.
Section 4F does not prohibit a judge from participating in arbitration,
mediation or settlement conferences performed as part of judicial duties.
G. Practice of Law. A judge shall not practice law. Notwithstanding this
prohibition, a judge may act pro se and may, without compensation, give legal
advice to and draft or review documents for a member of the judge's family.
This prohibition refers to the practice of law in a representative capacity and
not in a pro se capacity. A judge may act for himself or herself in all legal
matters, including matters involving litigation and matters involving
appearances before or other dealings with legislative and other governmental
bodies. However, in so doing, a judge must not abuse the prestige of office to
advance the interests of the judge or the judge's family. See Section 2D.
The Code allows a judge to give legal advice to and draft legal documents for
members of the judge's family, so long as the judge receives no compensation. A
judge must not, however, act as an advocate or negotiator for a member of the
judge's family in a legal matter.
H. Compensation, Reimbursement and Reporting.
(1) Compensation and Reimbursement. A judge may receive compensation and
reimbursement of expenses for the extra-judicial activities permitted by this
Code, if the source of such payments does not give the appearance of influencing
the judge's performance of judicial duties or otherwise give the appearance of
(a) Compensation shall not exceed a reasonable amount nor shall it exceed what a
person who is not a judge would receive for the same activity.
(b) Expense reimbursement shall be limited to the actual cost of travel, food
and lodging reasonably incurred by the judge and, where appropriate to the
occasion, by the judge's spouse or guest. Any payment in excess of such an
amount is compensation.
(2) All candidates for judicial office and judges shall comply with KRS 61.710,
See Section 4D(5) regarding gifts, bequests and loans.
The Code does not prohibit a judge from accepting honoraria or speaking fees
provided that the compensation is reasonable and commensurate with the task
performed. A judge should ensure, however, that no conflicts are created by the
arrangement. A judge must not appear to trade on the judicial position for
personal advantage. Nor should a judge spend significant time away from court
duties to meet speaking or writing commitments for compensation. In addition,
the source of the payment must not raise any question of undue influence or the
judge's ability or willingness to be impartial.
I. Disclosure of a judge's income, debts, investments or other assets is
required only to the extent provided in this Canon and in Sections 3E and 3F, or
as otherwise required by law.
Section 3E requires a judge to disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding
in which the judge has an economic interest. See "economic interest" as
explained in the Terminology Section. A judge has the rights of any other
citizen, including the right to privacy of the judge's financial affairs, except
to the extent that limitations established by law are required to safeguard the
proper performance of the judge's duties.
CANON 5: A JUDGE OR JUDICIAL CANDIDATE SHALL REFRAIN FROM INAPPROPRIATE
A. Political Conduct in General.
(1) A judge or a candidate for election to judicial office shall not:
(a) act as a leader or hold any office in a political organization;
(b) make speeches for or against a political organization or candidate or
publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for public office;
(c) solicit funds for or pay an assessment or make a contribution to a political
organization or candidate, except as authorized in subsection A(2);
A judge or a candidate for election to judicial office retains the right to
participate in the political process as a voter.
Where false information concerning a judicial candidate is made public, a judge
or candidate having knowledge of the facts is not prohibited by Section 5A(1)
from making the facts public.
Section 5A(1) does not prohibit a judge or candidate from privately expressing
his or her views on judicial candidates or other candidates for public office.
(2) A judge or a candidate for election to judicial office may purchase tickets
to political gatherings for the judge or candidate and one guest, may attend
political gatherings and may speak to such gatherings on the judge's or
candidate's own behalf. A judge or candidate shall not identify himself or
herself as a member of a political party in any form of advertising, or when
speaking to a gathering. If not initiated by the judge or candidate for such
office, and only in answer to a direct question, the judge or candidate may
identify himself or herself as a member of a particular political party.
A judge or candidate, in purchasing tickets to political gatherings, should be
careful that he or she doesn't create the impression that the purchase is not
for the advancement of the judge or candidate but is solely a contribution to
another candidate or political organization, which is prohibited.
(3) A judge shall resign office when the judge becomes a candidate either in a
party primary or in a general election for a non-judicial office, except that
the judge may continue to hold judicial office while being a candidate for
election to or serving as a delegate in a state constitutional convention, if
otherwise permitted by law.
(4) A judge shall not engage in any other political activity except on behalf of
measures to improve the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice,
as provided in Canon 2B and C.
A judge or candidate for judicial office shall encourage members of his or her
family to adhere to the same standards of political conduct in support of the
candidate that apply to the candidate. Family members are free to participate in
other political activity.
B. Campaign Conduct.
(1) A judge or candidate for election to judicial office:
(a) shall maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office, and shall
encourage members of the candidate's family to adhere to the same standards of
(b) shall prohibit public officials or employees subject to the candidate's
direction and control from doing for the candidate what the candidate is
prohibited from doing under this Canon; and except to the extent authorized
under subsection B(2), the candidate should not allow any other person to do for
the candidate what the candidate is prohibited from doing under this Canon;
(c) shall not make pledges or promises of conduct in office other than the
faithful and impartial performance of the duties of the office; shall not make
statements that commit or appear to commit the candidate with respect to cases,
controversies or issues that are likely to come before the court; and shall not
misrepresent any candidate's identity, qualifications, present position, or
Section 5B(1)(c) prohibits a candidate for judicial office from making
statements that appear to commit the candidate regarding cases, controversies or
issues likely to come before the court, and prohibits campaigning on issues in a
manner designed solely to appeal to public social bias in order to gain a
political advantage. As a corollary, a candidate should emphasize in any public
statement the candidate's duty to uphold the law regardless of his or her
personal views. See also Section 3(B)(9), the general rule on public comment by
judges. Section 5B(1)(c) does not prohibit a candidate from making pledges or
promises respecting improvements in court administration. Nor does this section
prohibit an incumbent judge from making private statements to other judges or
court personnel in the performance of judicial duties.
(d) shall file the report referred to in Canon 4H(2).
(2) A judge or a candidate for judicial office shall not solicit campaign funds,
but may establish committees of responsible persons to secure and manage the
expenditure of funds for the campaign and to obtain public statements of support
for the candidacy. A candidate's committees may solicit funds for the campaign
no earlier than 180 days before a primary election. A candidate's committees may
not solicit funds after a general election (See KRS 121.150). A candidate shall
not use or permit the use of campaign contributions for the private benefit of
the candidate or a member of the candidate's family.
Section 5B(2) permits a candidate to establish campaign committees to solicit
and accept political support and reasonable financial contributions. At the
start of the campaign, the candidate should instruct his or her campaign
committees to solicit or accept only contributions that are reasonable under the
circumstances. The candidate should instruct his or her campaign committees as
to the requirements of Canon 5 of this Code. The candidate is responsible for
the actions of his or her campaign committees.
APPLICATION OF THE CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT
Anyone, whether or not a lawyer, who is an officer of a judicial system
performing judicial functions, including an officer such as a court
commissioner, is a judge for the purpose of this Code. All judges should comply
with this Code except as provided below.
A. Part-Time Judge or Special Judge. A part-time judge is a judge who serves on
a continuing or periodic basis, but is permitted by law to devote time to some
other profession or occupation and whose compensation for that reason is less
than that of a full-time judge.
(1) is not required to comply with Canon 4D(3), E, F, and G;
(2) should not practice law in the court on which the judge serves or in any
court subject to the appellate jurisdiction of the court on which the judge
serves, or act as a lawyer in a proceeding in which the judge has served as a
judge or in any other proceeding related thereto. This provision shall not,
however, prevent a trial commissioner of the District Court or a commissioner of
the Circuit Court from practicing in the court of which that person is a
commissioner so long as that person has not taken and does not take any action
as such commissioner with respect to the matter or matters in which that person
practices as an attorney.
B. Judge Pro Tempore. A judge pro tempore is a person who is appointed to act
temporarily as a judge.
(1) While acting as such, a judge pro tempore is not required to comply with
Canon 4D(3), (4), E, F, and G.
(2) A person who has been a judge pro tempore should not act as lawyer in a
proceeding in which that person has served as a judge or in any other proceeding