The Illinois Supreme Court has adopted a new Code of Judicial Conduct, including guidance on the use of social media and updated financial disclosures. The new Code will take effect on January 1, 2023.
The Code of Judicial Conduct establishes standards of ethical conduct for judges and judicial candidates. The current Code has largely been in place since 1993.
The new Code is based on years of study by the Illinois Judicial Ethics Committee (IJEC) and is based on the American Bar Association’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct. The ABA model serves as the basis for judicial ethics codes in 37 states.
“The Illinois Supreme Court is committed to promoting the highest ethical behavior by judges in our state,” Chief Justice Anne M. Burke said in a press release. “The Court’s promulgation of a new, modern Code of Judicial Conduct will further that objective by providing judges with clear guidance regarding their ethical responsibilities both on and off the bench. The product of years of careful study, the new Code will serve the citizens of our state well for many years to come.”
The new Code includes several notable additions and amendments, including:
- Social media: Preamble, Paragraph 4 lays out the ways the Code governs a judge’s personal and judicial activities “in person, on paper, and by telephone or other electronic means,” including social media. It was added to alert judges to “the seemingly endless” ways judges could violate judicial conduct codes on social media and in other forms of electronic communications.
- Recognized family relations: The new Code adds “domestic partner” to recognized family relations. The definition is consistent with the common understanding of domestic, non-marital relationships.
- Financial disclosures: The yearly financial disclosures have been updated, including requiring more detailed information on assets owned and the names of lawyers and law firms worked with in the previous three years. In addition, the proposed Code raises the threshold for reportable income and debt to $1,000.
- Harassment: Rule 2.3 says judges shall perform the duties of their judicial office, including administrative duties without “bias, prejudice, or harassment based upon race, sex, gender, gender identity, religion, national origin, ethnicity, pregnancy, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation.” The Code’s previous language was updated to prohibit harassment and include the categories of gender, gender identity, ethnicity, marital status, pregnancy, and political affiliation.
Serving as a national model
The new Code was developed by the IJEC, a joint committee of the Illinois Judges Association, Illinois State Bar Association, and Chicago Bar Association. A public hearing on proposed updates was held in February 2022.
IJEC Chair Steven F. Pflaum of Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP said that while Illinois’ new Code is based on the ABA Model, aspects of it may serve as a model for other states, specifically sections clarifying and defining the ways judges interact on social media.
“The new Code adopted by the Illinois Supreme Court is especially noteworthy for providing judges with guidance regarding how the ethics rules apply to the use of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media,” Pflaum said.
Staying up to date on issues impacting the legal profession is vital to your success. Subscribe here to get the Commission’s weekly news delivered to your inbox.