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D. Interviewing judges

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  • 2nd Circuit

    This will vary by jurisdiction and judge.

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  • 5th Circuit

    Nothing found specific to the Fifth Circuit.

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  • 7th Circuit

    In Franklin v. McCaughtry, 398 F.3d 955 (7th Cir. 2005), the Seventh Circuit held that a state court judge should have recused himself after he was mentioned and quoted in a newspaper article as having written a memorandum disapproving of the release of indigent prisoners on bail, which used the example of a defendant over whose case the judge was presiding.  The memorandum and the judge's “contacts with the newspaper were extrajudicial activities vis-a-vis” the defendant’s case, and showed actual bias.  Id. at 961-62.  Compare United States v. Board of Sch. Com'rs, 503 F. 2d , 80-81 (7th Cir. 1974) (district judge presiding over school desegregation case did not have to be recused based on published interview “which allegedly evinced an attitude of prejudgment on the liability of the state officials”; Court found judge’s remarks were “derived from proceedings had before the court, and not on attitudes or conceptions that were formed outside the courtroom” and did not constitute disqualifying bias).

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  • 8th Circuit

    There appears to be no Eighth Circuit case law on interviewing judges.

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  • Alabama

    The Alabama Cannons of Judicial Ethics provide as follows:

    A judge should abstain from public comment about a pending or impending proceeding in any court, and should require similar abstention on the part of court personnel subject to his direction and control. This subsection 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.

    Ala. Canons Jud. Ethics 3(A)(6) (2019).

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  • Arizona

    No reported decisions.

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  • California

    California’s Code of Judicial Ethics, Canon 3B(9), prohibits judges from making “any public comment about a pending or impending proceeding in any court” or making “any nonpublic comment that might substantially interfere with a fair trial or hearing.” The Advisory Committee Commentary explains that this prohibition extends through any appellate proceedings until final disposition of the matter. The Commentary also explains that “[a]lthough this canon does not prohibit a judge from commenting on cases that are not pending or impending in any court, a judge must be cognizant of the general prohibition in Canon 2 against conduct involving impropriety or the appearance of impropriety.”

    In addition, under Canon 3B(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.”

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  • Colorado

    The Colorado Judicial Branch’s public information officer is the gatekeeper for judges throughout the state, and reporters who have individual requests are encouraged to start with the public information officer.

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  • Florida

    The Code of Judicial Conduct for the State of Florida is available at http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/ethics/index.shtml. Among the canons of conduct, a judge shall uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary; avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the judge’s activities; perform the duties of judicial office impartially and diligently; and regulate extrajudicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with judicial duties. No specific rule or canon applies to judicial interaction with the media and consenting to media interviews, but any such judicial conduct must conform with the Judicial Code of Conduct. Florida judges virtually never comment on pending cases and only rarely comment on cases that have concluded.

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  • Georgia

    Nothing prohibits the interviewing of judges. In a report adopted by the Georgia Judicial Council and State Bar, a state judicial commission recently recommended that public understanding and support of the judicial system should be encouraged, in part by training “judges to educate the public about the role of the courts and the importance of an independent judiciary” and by encouraging “the Institute of Continuing Judicial Education to instruct judges on how to do so consistent with codes of judicial conduct.” See Embracing the Courts of the Future: Final Report of the Next Generation Courts Commission (March 2014) at 22; id. at 21–22 (“Courts at all levels in Georgia must promote long-term public confidence and support of the judicial system by demonstrating and practicing transparency, establishing as one of their core functions the effective provision of convenient and timely public access to court procedures, schedules, records and proceedings.”).

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  • Idaho

    Judges are required to abstain from making public comments regarding a pending or impending proceeding.  But, the Code of Judicial Conduct does not generally prohibit a judge from making a public statement in the course of her official duties “or from explaining for public information the procedures of the court.”  Idaho Code of Jud. Conduct, Canon 3(B)(9).  Additionally, a judge may comment on proceedings in which she is a litigant in a personal capacity but may not comment if she is a litigant in an official capacity, such as in a mandamus action.  Id. Commentary.

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  • Indiana

    Judges may be interviewed, except that the judges may not violate the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct when giving interviews. The Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct may be found here: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/rules/jud_conduct/. Additionally, the Code provides that judicial candidates may receive questionnaires or requests for interviews from the media or other organizations. Rule 4.1, Comment 17. The Code advises responding candidates to “give assurances that they will keep an open mind and will carry out their adjudicative duties faithfully and impartially if elected” to avoid violating Rule 4.1(A)(13), which prohibits judges and judicial candidates from making pledges, promises, or commitments that are inconsistent with their impartiality regarding issues likely to come before the court. Rule 4.1, Comment 17.

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  • Iowa

    Iowa judges and staff may explain court procedures in general terms and provide copies of written rulings and orders, but ethical rules require that judges and court staff not comment on pending cases or litigation likely to come before the courts. See Reporter’s Guide to Iowa Court Systems, https://www.iowacourts.gov/media/cms/reporters_guide_to_IJB_2014_646362F2671A4.pdf. Also, Iowa Supreme Court Justices, Iowa Court of Appeals Judges, and their staff do not explain or elaborate upon appellate opinions or speculate about the impact of an opinion on the law. Id. “This is to preserve the authority of the court’s written opinion as law and to avoid interpretations or statements that might conflict with or confuse the precise legal meaning of the court’s opinion.” Id. at 12.

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  • Kansas

    Kansas judges may agree to be interviewed about the judicial system.  Rules of judicial conduct include a comment that:  “Judges are uniquely qualified to engage in extrajudicial activities that concern the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice, such as by speaking. . . . In addition, judges are permitted and encouraged to engage in educational . . . activities.” Rules Related to Judicial Conduct / Kansas Canons of Judicial Conduct / Canon 3, Rule 3.1 (comment), http://www.kscourts.org/rules/Judicial_Conduct/Canon%203.pdf, which appears in http://www.kscourts.org/rules/Judicial_Conduct.asp.  The Kansas Judicial Branch’s public information director is available to answer questions about contacting and interviewing judges.  See Appellate Court Contacts, Kansas Judicial Branch,  http://www.kscourts.org/court-administration/general-contact-information/default.asp.

    Judges readily have participated in educational programs on courts and media.  For example, the annual meeting of state judges on June 18, 2015, in Overland Park, Kansas, included panel discussions about how judges respond to media requests for access to probable cause affidavits and about media-judicial relations generally.

    Still, judges generally take a firm position that they must not comment on a pending case.  They are bound by Kansas Rules Relating to Judicial Conduct that prohibit them from making comment that “might reasonably be expected to affect” the outcome of a pending proceeding “or impair its fairness.”  The rules also prohibit judges from making “any nonpublic comment that might substantially interfere with a fair trial or hearing.”  Court personnel under the judges’ control also are subject to the rule.  Judges, however, are permitted to comment publicly in the course of performing their official duties, and they publicly may explain court procedures.  See Rules Relating to Judicial Conduct /Kansas Canons of Judicial Conduct, Canon 2 / Rule 2.10(a): http://www.kscourts.org/pdf/Code%20of%20Judicial%20Conduct.pdf.

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  • Kentucky

    There is no Kentucky law directly addressing interviews of judges.  Kentucky state court judges typically will not give interviews concerning ongoing cases or specific matters that may come before them in a judicial capacity because of various provisions in the Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct, Ky. Sup. Ct. R. 4.300.

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  • Louisiana

    Canon 3(A)(8) of the Canons of Judicial Conduct states: “A judge shall not, while a proceeding is pending in any Louisiana state court, make any public comment that might reasonably be expected to affect its outcome or impair its fairness . . . . This subsection 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.”

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  • Maine

    Judges are not available for interview regarding active cases. The Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court or the Court’s spokesperson will respond to media inquiries.

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  • Minnesota

    Research did not reveal any opinion where a Minnesota court addressed this issue.

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  • Montana

    There are no restrictions on approaching a judge for an interview.  But the court has discretion to decline an interview.

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  • Nebraska

    Section 5-203(B)(9) of the Nebraska Code of Judicial Conduct generally prohibits judges from commenting on pending litigation. Some Nebraska judges are sometimes willing to give interviews on general topics related to the judicial system, but are not required to do so.

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  • Nevada

    Judges are prevented from making any public statement that might reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness of a matter pending or impending in any court or make any nonpublic statement that might substantially interfere with a fair trial or hearing. Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct, Judicial Canon 2.10. Furthermore, a judge shall not, in connection with cases, controversies, or issues that are likely to come before the court, make pledges, promises, or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of judicial office. Id.

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  • New Hampshire

    Neither the press nor public has the right to interview judges. Whether a judge should give an interview is governed by the New Hampshire Code of Judicial Conduct. See Sup. Ct. R. 38.

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  • New Mexico

    There are no reported New Mexico cases regarding interviews of judges.

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  • Oklahoma

    There is no prohibition against a judge granting an interview, but most judges appear reluctant to speak with the media about a case.  They will do so under circumstances they believe consistent with Rule 2.10 of the Oklahoma Code of Judicial Conduct.

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  • Pennsylvania

    The Pennsylvania Code of Judicial Conduct states “a judge should abstain from public comment about a pending proceeding in any court….” Pa. Code Jud. Conduct Canon 3A(6). This subsection 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. Id.

    In Commonwealth v. Druce, 848 A.2d 104 (Pa. 2004), the court held that a judge’s statements to the media concerning a defendant’ sentencing violated Pa. Code Jud. Conduct Canon 3A(6), but did not per se require him to recuse himself from the case. While recognizing the Code “does not have the force of substantive law,” the court emphasized its approval of the Code’s standards of conduct and found a Code of Judicial Conduct violation. Id. at 109. The court also stated it “d[id] not approve of members of the judiciary speaking to the press about cases pending before them . . . .” Id.

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  • Utah

    No Utah authority specifically addresses access to interviewing judges.

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  • Vermont

    There is no general prohibition on interviewing judges.  See, e.g., State v. Bacon, 163 Vt. 279, 308, 314, 658 A.2d 54 (Vt. 1995) (noting that interview of trial judge was published in a newspaper while the case was ongoing).  The Vermont Code of Judicial Conduct does, however, provide that “[a] judge shall not,whileaproceeding 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.”  Vt. A.O. 10 Canon 3(B)(9).  This does not, however, “prohibit judges from making public statements in the course of their official duties or from explaining for public information the procedures of the court.”  Id.  At least one Vermont judge has been disciplined for statements that he made in a newspaper interview because “the judge’s statements violated the judicial canon requiring public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.” In re Mandeville, 144 Vt. 608, 609, 481 A.2d 1048, 1049 (Vt. 1984).

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  • West Virginia

    West Virginia’s Code of Judicial Conduct outlines ethical rules for judicial statements on pending and impending cases. Canon 2.10(A) prohibits a judge from making “any public statement that might reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness of a matter pending or impending in any court, or make any nonpublic statement that might substantially interfere with a fair trial or hearing.”  In addition, under Canon 2.8(C), “[a] judge shall not commend or criticize jurors for their verdict, but may express appreciation to jurors for their service to the judicial system and the community.”

     

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  • Wisconsin

    There is no prohibition in Wisconsin law on interviewing judges.

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  • Wyoming

    There is no prohibition on interviews of judges, but rarely are they granted.

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