Friday, September 19, 2014
New Guidelines for District Court Judges
According to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, the policies are part of a revised version of the Rules Governing Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania issued this week. The new rules take effect Dec. 1.
The guidelines are designed to bring greater clarity to rules affecting the conduct of Pennsylvania's district court judges, rules that have not changed significantly in 40 years, officials said. The guidelines complement a similar rules overhaul approved earlier this year applicable to conduct standards for trial and appellate judges that had been in place without revision since 1973, according to a press release from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.
The new set of rules for district court judges mirror many of the rules for trial and appellate judges that took effect last month. Much of the updating was based on language used in a model judicial code adopted by the American Bar Association and guidelines used in other states.
"We are fully committed to maintaining the public's trust and confidence in the judicial system," Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Ronald D. Castille said. "These updates help enhance the integrity of our court system so its fairness can remain beyond question."
The rules differ from the recently adopted rules for other judges in Pennsylvania because district court judges are not required to have a law degree and they may have outside employment that does not conflict with their judicial duties, according to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.
There are a total of 526 district court judges statewide, according to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.
The new code of conduct essentially consists of four canons that discuss judicial ethics. They are:
CANON 1 - A MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT JUDGE SHALL UPHOLD AND PROMOTE THE INDEPENDENCE, INTEGRITY, AND IMPARTIALITY OF THE JUDICIARY, AND SHALL AVOID IMPROPRIETY AND THE APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY.
CANON 2 - A MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT JUDGE SHALL PERFORM THE DUTIES OF JUDICIAL OFFICE IMPARTIALLY, COMPETENTLY AND DILIGENTLY.
CANON 3 - A MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT JUDGE SHALL CONDUCT THE MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT JUDGE'S PERSONAL AND EXTRAJUDICIAL ACTIVITIES TO MINIMIZE THE RISK OF CONFLICT WITH THE OBLIGATIONS OF JUDICIAL OFFICE.
CANON 4 - A MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT JUDGE OR CANDIDATE FOR JUDICIAL OFFICE SHALL NOT ENGAGE IN POLITICAL OR CAMPAIGN ACTIVITY THAT IS INCONSISTENT WITH THE INDEPENDENCE, INTEGRITY, OR IMPARTIALITY OF THE JUDICIARY.
To view a complete list of the rules and for more information about the Code of Conduct readers can visit The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania's website at www.PACourts.us