State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 03-07
May judicial officers participate in institutional visits?
Judicial associations sponsor visits by judges to various institutions operated by the Department of Corrections, Department of Rehabilitation and mental hospitals operated by the Department of Social and Health Services. The visits are intended to educate judges about how these facilities are operated. On occasions judges have an opportunity to interact with inmates, patients and staff about conditions at the facilities.
CJC Canon 1 provides in part that judges should personally observe high standards of judicial conduct so that the integrity of the judiciary is maintained. Canon 2(A) provides that judges should conduct themselves at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Canon 3(A)(4) requires judges to abstain from participating in or considering ex parte or other communications concerning a pending or impending case. Canon 4(A) provides that judges may participate in quasi-judicial activities if in doing so they do not cast doubt on their capacity to decide impartially any issue that may come before them.
A judge may visit correctional and other types of institutions. It is important for a judge to be familiar with these institutions in order to carry out his/her judicial duties. A judge may not, however, engage in ex parte or other communications with inmates, patients or staff who may be involved in any pending or impending litigation which may come before that judge.
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