On Friday, February 3, 2012, the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility (“Ethics Committee”) and the ABA Standing Committee on Professional Discipline (“Discipline Committee”) will hold a public hearing from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, 500 Canal Street, Napoleon Ballroom C3, 3rd Floor, New Orleans, LA. The topic of the hearing will be “Proposed Amendments to the Model Code of Judicial Conduct and the Model Rules of Professional Conduct Regarding Judicial Disqualifications and Judicial Campaign support disclosure”.
In recent years, judicial disqualification has emerged as an important policy issue in numerous states, the United States Supreme Court, and is even an important focus of discussion and debate on ways to improve both the reality and the public perception of the fairness and impartiality of our court system. That focus has been sharpened because of intense public scrutiny and criticism in several highly publicized cases of refusals by judges to recuse themselves in circumstances where the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.
Resolution 107, which was approved by the House of Delegates at 2011 Annual Meeting, stated that “the Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility and the Standing Committee on Professional Discipline should proceed on an expedited basis to consider what amendments, if any, should be made to the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct or to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct to provide necessary additional guidance to the states on disclosure requirements and standards for judicial disqualification.”
In light of these developments and to fulfill the House of Delegates’ directive, the Ethics and Discipline Committees are circulating for comment proposed amendments to Model Code of Judicial Conduct Rules 2.11, 4.4, the Terminology section, alternative proposals for amendments to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, new Rule 5.1 A, and a new Model Supreme Court to provide necessary additional guidance to the states on disclosure requirements and standards for judicial disqualification.
The February 3, 2012 public hearing will serve as an open session to discuss these proposals. The Committees welcome testimony from the profession and the public. Appearances are limited to five minute presentations followed by a five minute question and answer period. The Committees will work to accommodate all appearance requests.