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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 69817 Find in a Library
Title: Codes of Judicial Ethics - Do They Affect Judges' Views of Proper Off-The-Bench Behavior?
Journal: American Business Law Journal  Volume:17  Dated:(Winter 1980)  Pages:493-505
Author(s): M L Volcansek
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 13
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: To determine the extent to which more stringent cannons of ethics would influence judicial perceptions of appropriate judicial conduct, a questionnaire was mailed to the 210 sitting district judges in Texas.
Abstract: Texas district judges were chosen for two reasons. A new stricter code has recently replaced the very loose code and a stratified sampling of 62 of these judges, interviewed in 1973, permitted a comparison. A total of 76 percent of the judges answered the questionnaire which covered two types of judicial conduct outside the actual decisional process: public and business involvement and political activities. Findings indicated that in terms of appropriate behavior, there was a degree of consensus among the judges responding in the area of political activities. Judges contacted in 1975 viewed their role in the political area as more restricted than did the judges contacted in 1973. This suggests that the newly promulgated code of judicial conduct did influence perceptions as to what constitutes proper off-the-bench behavior in the political area. The findings regarding public activities were less clear. A larger number of judges in 1975 saw all the public activities as prohibited than in the 1973 study. However, in the area of business activities, a larger number viewed unrestricted participation as proper after the promulgation of the new code. The findings also suggest that the so-called post-Watergate morality may have served as a catalyst both for rewriting the code of ethics and for the restrictive evaluation by the judges of what constitutes appropriate off-the-bench behavior. Also, the findings of the study, as they relate to political activities, suggest that written standards do influence perceptions of what is proper behavior, although the extent of this influence is not as apparent. Thus, more rigid, explicit standards of conduct might ensure greater certainty in areas where individual discretion previously had been the rule. Tabular data accompany the article.
Index Term(s): Code of ethics; Conflict of interest; Judges; Judicial conduct and ethics
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