Both attorneys and judges alike are bound by certain rules of ethics which impose obligations upon members of these professions as officers of the court system. Each state has its own rules regarding what attorneys and judges can and cannot do and the penalties for failing to follow the established rules. A recent high profile DUI case in California’s Beverly Hills’ Court demonstrates the consequences judges can face for failing to strictly adhere to their ethical obligations.
The Washington Post reported Monday that two judges involved in actress Lindsay Lohan’s recent brush with the law have been disciplined in connection with their handling of the case. According to the story, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judges Marsha Revel and Elden Fox were reprimanded by the California Commission on Judicial Performance (“CCJP”).
The CCJP determined that Revel had acted improperly by meeting alone with an attorney that wanted to take over the defense of Lohan’s 2010 DUI case. Fox was disciplined for denying Lohan bail on a minor charge and refusing to hear her attorney’s arguments on the issue. Both judges were issued “advisory letters,” which are considered the lowest form of discipline.
California’s judiciary is governed by the California Code of Judicial Ethics (“CCJE”). First adopted in 1996 and recently amended in 2009, the CCJE covers judges’ behavior on and off the bench, stating “All members of the judiciary must comply with the Code. Compliance is required to preserve the integrity of the bench and to ensure the confidence of the public.”
In the case of Revel, the CCJP likely found him to have violated Section 3(B)(7) of the CCJE which does not allow a judge to “initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications, or consider other communications made to the judge outside the presence of the parties concerning a pending or impending proceeding…”
Fox, on the other hand, was probably found in to have breached Section 3(B)(7) of the CCJE which requires a judge to “dispose of all judicial matters fairly, promptly, and efficiently. A judge shall manage the courtroom in a manner that provides all litigants the opportunity to have their matters fairly adjudicated in accordance with the law.”
Although neither judges’ misconduct was considered particularly egregious, it certainly had an effect on Lohan’s case. Incidents such as these demonstrate that even judges can make mistakes, emphasizing the need for defendants to be represented by seasoned legal counsel willing to fight for their interests. Of course, those facing criminal charges have much on the line when it comes to these cases; jobs, financial penalties, custody of their children, and even their freedom hinge on actions in the courtroom. For that reason it is always unacceptable to have a lawyer or judge fail to adhere to strict ethical standards that ensure fairness for all those involved in each and every case.
Orange County criminal defense attorney Lauren K. Johnson has extensive experience protecting the rights of the accused. If you have questions regarding California’s criminal law or your rights, contact attorney Lauren K. Johnson today.