Ethics Opinions

2013

Advisory Opinion 13-01
The Judicial Ethics Committee has been asked for an opinion as to what extent, if any, a  judicial candidate may engage in campaign activities prior to the beginning of the 180-day period before the primary election for the position.

2012

Advisory Opinion 12-01
The Judicial Ethics Committee has been asked to provide an ethics opinion as to whether judges may utilize social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and MySpace and, if so, the extent to which they may participate.

2011

Advisory Opinion 11-01
The Judicial Ethics Committee has been asked to provide an opinion as to the following inquiry:
Question: Does the Code of Judicial Conduct permit a judge, who is a member of a drug court team, to preside over the revocation/sentencing hearing of a defendant who is in the drug court program?

2010

Advisory Opinion 10-01
The Judicial Ethics Committee has been asked to provide an opinion as to whether judges may speak and write on the following, or related, topics:
(1) the history, background, or interpretation of Article VI, Sections 3 and 4 of the Tennessee Constitution;
(2) the Tennessee General Assembly’s power to prescribe the manner in which Tennessee’s judges will be selected and elected; and
(3) the pros and cons of the methods used in other jurisdictions to select and elect judges.

2009

Advisory Opinion 09-01
Regarding situations which may arise when a trial court presides over a class action case in which the parties have agreed pursuant to the cy pres doctrine that a portion of a settlement or judgment be donated to a charitable organization.

2007

Advisory Opinion No. 07-02
May part-time Municipal Court Judges be precluded from representing criminal defendants in state court where police officers from the municipality are expected to be called as material witnesses; and further where one of the officers is alleged to be a victim?

Advisory Opinion 07-01
May part-time Municipal Court Judges be precluded from representing criminal defendants in state court where police officers from the municipality are expected to be called as a material witness(es)? 

2005

Advisory Opinion 05-03
What effect does the case of Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002), have on Canon 5A(3)(d), the Pledges/Promises Provision of the Tennessee Code of Judicial Conduct?

Advisory Opinion 05-02
The Committee has been asked whether Canon 3B(5) of the Canons of Judicial Ethics is violated when all those convicted of misdemeanors are placed on supervised probation "at least until they pay their court costs." Then, according to the inquiry, "the great majority would be relieved of supervision." Further, the inquiry asks if this procedure amounts to utilizing a criminal penalty to collect a debt which, according to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-24-105, is supposed to be collected as a civil judgment.

Advisory Opinion 05-01
The Committee has been asked to render an opinion as to what law practice limitations apply as the result of an attorney's becoming a part-time divorce referee and whether the Canons of Judicial Ethics apply to such a person.

2004

Advisory Opinion 04-01
The Committee has been asked to render an opinion as to the necessity of recusal by a trial judge when a law firm with which the judge's child is affiliated makes an appearance in the judge's court:

  1. Must a trial judge recuse himself/herself from all cases in which one of the parties is represented by a firm in which his/her child is a salaried partner? 
  2. Must a trial judge recuse himself/herself from all cases in which one of the parties is represented by a firm in which his/her child is an equity partner? 

The Committee concludes that the fact a litigant is represented by a firm in which the judge's child is a partner, whether salaried or equity, does not require recusal of the judge from the litigation, but other factors may make recusal necessary.

2003 

Advisory Opinion 03-04
An inquiry has been presented for the Committee's review and consideration which addresses the question of whether a General Sessions Judge must resign from office upon becoming a candidate for a state court judgeship.

Advisory Opinion 03-03
A Commissioner of the Tennessee Claims Commission owns an interest along with her spouse and two other persons in an office building. The inquiry is made to this Committee as to whether, under the Code of Judicial Conduct, the Commissioner may lease the office space to the State of Tennessee for her Claims Commission Office.

Advisory Opinion 03-02
The Committee has been asked to render an ethics opinion as to whether a Commissioner of the Tennessee Claims Commission may continue to serve as a public interest director to the board of the Federal Home Loan Bank (FHL Bank) of Cincinnati.

Advisory Opinion 03-01
This opinion addresses the question of whether the judge, which is the subject of Opinion No. 99-1, should recuse herself in all matters in which an attorney and his law firm have pending before the judge.

2002

Advisory Opinion 02-01
QUESTION: May a judge serve as a member of the Tax Structure Study Committee?

2001

Advisory Opinion 01-01
An advisory ethical opinion has been requested to determine whether or not it is a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct to allow a judicial candidate's finance committee members to personally satisfy a political campaign deficit created by an unsuccessful bid for judicial election in the summer of 2000.

2000
Advisory Opinion 00-04
Inquiry has been presented regarding whether the closing of all divisions of the Shelby County Courts of General Sessions during established court holidays constitutes an ethical violation of any provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Advisory Opinion 00-03
This Committee has been requested to issue an opinion addressing the propriety of judicial conduct of a part-time juvenile court judge arising from the following factual scenarios: I. An attorney represents a client in a criminal case. Subsequently, the client is accused of the sexual molestation of a child in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Children's Services. The same attorney who represented the client in the criminal case may now be acting as the judge in the Juvenile Court hearing the sexual molestation case. II. An attorney represents parents in a termination of parental rights case in a county adjacent to Sequatchie. Within the week, the attorney, acting as Juvenile Court Judge in Sequatchie County, hears a termination of parental rights case involving basically the same issues. III. A litigant before a part-time judge/lawyer later attempts to retain that judge/lawyer to represent him in other pending matters.

Advisory Opinion 00-02
The committee has been asked to render an ethics opinion as to whether Knox County General Sessions Judges, as a matter of public policy, should recuse themselves from cases in which a specific Knox County Deputy Sheriff is involved.

Advisory Opinion 00-01
May a candidate who seeks appointment to a judicial office, following a vacancy of that office, form a committee to solicit or accept funds for his or her candidacy for election to that same office? 

1999

Advisory Opinion 99-6
We have been asked to render an ethics opinion as to whether a part-time general sessions judge may serve as a certified Rule 31 mediator. See generally Sup. Ct. R. 31.

Advisory Opinion 99-5
Advisory Opinion 99-5 Concurring
We have been asked to render an ethics opinion regarding the Code of Judicial Ethics, specifically, (1) whether Judges and clerks may participate in a charity golf tournament sponsored by the Tennessee Judicial Foundation by playing on teams and sponsoring holes and/or tees, (2) whether members of bar association groups may be involved in hole and/or tee sponsorship and (3) whether it would be appropriate for the Foundation to seek participation from legal publishers or other suppliers by way of either fielding teams for the golf outing or participating in hole and/or tee sponsorship and whether such organizations could underwrite the financing of this tournament.

Advisory Opinion 99-4
Before the Committee is the question of whether a trial judge may accept part-time employment with a large corporation if the work is non-legal in nature and the employment would not interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties.

Advisory Opinion 99-3
The judge now inquires: (1) whether or not the Court should recuse itself from ruling on the pending divorce petition for ethical reasons; (2) whether or not a waiver by the parties can cure any ethical disqualification of the judge; and (3) whether or not the Court can disclose the contents of the complaint filed with the Court of the Judiciary to all parties and counsel upon request so a waiver of the judge's disqualification can be considered.

Advisory Opinion 99-2
A request has been submitted to the Committee for an opinion regarding the propriety of certain political activity by a part-time municipal court judge. The judge has been requested by the "Alexander for President" campaign staff to be a co-chairperson for the Maury County local campaign.

Advisory Opinion 99-1
Inquiry has been submitted to the Committee for issuance of an opinion as to whether a judge should recuse herself in all cases involving a certain law firm. An attorney "of counsel" with that firm represents the judge's husband's ex-wife in a domestic relations matter now pending in court.

1998

Advisory Opinion 98-5
This Committee has been asked to render an opinion regarding the propriety of juvenile court judges and their employees supervising probation and other programs for juveniles whom they have placed on any type of probation. Included in this issue is the appointment and supervision of probation officers for juvenile court.

Advisory Opinion 98-4
We have been asked to render an ethics opinion regarding the Code of Judicial Ethics, specifically, whether a judge or judicial candidate can respond to probative questionnaires submitted to the judge or candidate by special advocacy groups which ask the judge or judicial candidate the manner in which the candidate would rule in specific cases, controversies or issues likely to come before the court, pending endorsement by such group.

Advisory Opinion 98-3
The Committee has been asked to render an opinion for a judicial candidate concerning whether or not it is permissible under Rule 10, Tennessee Rules of the Supreme Court, to advertise as follows:

Experienced, Fair, Committed
Candidate's Name
Circuit Court Judge, Part II

and (2) whether or not it is permissible under Rule 10, Tennessee Rules of the Supreme Court, for a judicial candidate's disclaimer on an advertisement to read as follows: "Paid advertisement. Paid for by (candidate's name)."

Advisory Opinion 98-2
Inquiry has been submitted to the Committee for issuance of an opinion of whether a part- time General Sessions Judge with Probate jurisdiction may preside over the routine and uncontested probate of wills he has prepared.

Advisory Opinion 98-1
Advisory Opinion 98-1 Dessenting
Inquiry has been submitted to the Committee for issuance of an opinion directing whether a Judge may prepare and transmit a personal letter on private stationery to friends and/or acquaintances endorsing the candidacy of another Judge.

1997

Adisory Opinion 97-6
The committee has been asked to render an opinion for a general sessions judge in Hamilton County concerning the date that a candidate for general sessions judge can begin soliciting funds for the next election.

Advisory Opinion 97-5
With reference to Committee Opinion No. 97-1, a request has been presented seeking further direction relative to the following judicial act. When a petition for an order of protection, pursuant to T.C.A. 36-3-605, is scheduled for hearing, the Judge's secretary obtains, through the local sheriff's department, a criminal history of both the petitioner and the respondent. Said criminal histories are compiled from T.B.I. and other local records. The parties are apprised of the Court's possession of this information and are questioned concerning the accuracy of the reports.

Advisory Opinion 97-4
The Committe has been asked to render an opinion for a judge concerning a request he has received from a disbarred attorney who is seeking reinstatement.

Advisory Opinion 97-3
The committee has been asked to render an opinion for a chancellor concerning a request he has received from a city police department to assist them on his "non-judicial time" in firearms training and as a member of the police department's competing pistol team.

Advisory Opinion 97-2
We have been asked to render an ethics opinion regarding the Code of Judicial Ethics, specifically, whether Canon 3(E) requires a judge to disqualify himself or herself if a lawyer for one of the parties in a proceeding has been retained by the Committee on Compensation and Retirement to assist in advocating the maintenance or improvement of judicial compensation before the General Assembly. 

Advisory Opinion 97-1
The Tennessee Department of Human Services has developed and is implementing a computer system to assist in the enforcement of child support payments. Inquiry has been submitted to this committee for an opinion regarding whether judicial access to such information would constitute an unethical and impermissible ex parte or other communication.