Ethical Guidelines

Ethical Guidelines

What are the ethical guidelines for judges' promotion of pro bono? The Code of Judicial Ethics recognizes the unique position of the judge in improving the administration of justice and encourages judges to contribute their leadership and skills. Pro bono representation is key to access to justice for those who live at the margins of our society (Rule 2.03, Canon 4, commentary, Code of Judicial Conduct).

There are only two relevant advisory opinions of the Missouri Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline. Opinion 128 (1986) approving judges participating in media campaign to recruit foster families and Opinion 157 (1991) approving judges efforts to improve the administration of justice by publicly recognizing pro bono attorneys.

The methods employed to encourage and recognize pro bono representation must be designed to allow judges to:

  • Maintain their integrity and impartiality (Canon 2).
  • Insure that every person who has a legal interest in a proceeding or that person's lawyer, has the right to be heard according to law (Canon 3B(7)).
  • Dispose of all matters promptly, efficiently and fairly (Canon 3B(8)).

Direct fundraising for pro bono organizations should not be engaged in by judges. They may participate in planning fundraising events, make recommendations regarding grants, etc. For detailed guidance, see Rule 2.03, Canon 4C(3)(b).

For further discussion of ethical advisory opinions from other states see ABA Center for Pro Bono Judicial Promotion of Pro Bono and Expanding Pro Bono: The Judiciary's Power to Open Doors by The Honorable Judith Billings and Jenny M. McMahon (ABA Dialogue, Spring 1998).

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