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Judicial Ethics Committee Opinions

Authority

The Judicial Ethics Committee may express its opinion on proper judicial conduct with respect to the provisions of the Nebraska Code of Judicial Conduct, either on its own initiative, at the request of a judge or candidate for judicial office, or at the request of a court or the Nebraska Commission on Judicial Qualifications.

The Committee also has the authority to make recommendations to the Nebraska Supreme Court for amendment of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

All opinions, beginning in 1989, are on file with the State Court Administrator and are available on this site. Please note that the Nebraska Code of Judicial Conduct has been revised three times since its original adoption; earlier opinions have not been revised to fit the current Code.

The 1989 Code governs opinions 89-1 to 92-6; the 1992 Code governs 92-7 to 09-1; and, the 2011 Code governs opinions *11-1 to present. *No opinions were issued in 2010 or 2013.

Membership

The Judicial Ethics Committee consists of seven members appointed by the Nebraska Supreme Court. Two of the members are from each of the county and district courts and one from the Court of Appeals. The remaining members are from any affected courts, but not from the Nebraska Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court designates one of the members as chair and one member as vice chair who serves in the event of disqualification or unavailability of the chair. Terms are staggered and individuals may be reappointed after a lapse of 1 year.

View the Judicial Ethics Committee.

Opinions 89-1 to 93-5 are PDF only and are searchable by question only, not by content.

Please use the site-wide search function to search the text of the Ethics Opinions.
Ethics PDF Question Presented
14-1 14-1.pdf May a county judge serve as a member of the board of directors for the National Safety Council, Nebraska, when the Council administers that judge’s county court misdemeanor diversion program for the jurisdiction’s city prosecutor; the prosecutor’s office and the Council determine the diversion curriculum, and unsuccessful diversion candidates may later appear in front of the county judge for...
12-4 12-4.pdf May a clerk magistrate accept donations from a community fundraiser to help defray her extensive medical bills because of illness?
12-3 12-3.pdf May a person who has previously filed for election as a delegate to a county post  primary political party convention and who by reason of the number of persons  filing will automatically be certified by the election commissioner as an elected  delegate avoid being in violation of the Nebraska Revised Code of Judicial  Conduct upon seeking appointment to judicial office?
12-2 12-2.pdf May a judge’s spouse feature their co-owned residence gardens in a  garden walk, the purpose of which is to raise funds for a local community  theater?
12-1 12-1.pdf What are a judge’s responsibilities under the Nebraska Revised Code of  Judicial Conduct when an attorney informs the judge of misconduct by the  attorney’s client, who is a personal representative in one of the judge’s  probate cases, a guardian/conservator in other cases, and the spouse of a  county court employee?
11-4 11-4.pdf Must a judge disqualify himself/herself from all cases pending before that judge in which a litigant is represented by an attorney who also represents the judge’s former spouse in a pending matter in a different court in which the judge is an adverse party?
11-3 11-3.pdf May a judge appear in a video presentation, to be viewed by county officials at an annual meeting, which intends to highlight recent renovations to a courthouse and is produced by the architectural firm responsible for the project?
11-2 11-2.pdf May a judge serve as an ex officio member of the board of directors for the  National Safety Council Greater Omaha Chapter provided that the judge’s name  does not appear on any documents for fundraising purposes?
11-1 11-1.pdf If a retired county judge appears as a practicing attorney before a judge with  whom he formerly served in the same county, must the judge be disqualified or  required to recuse?
09-1 09-1.pdf May a judge or his wife donate money to a Foundation that the judge and his wife created. May a judge attend the annual fundraiser of the Foundation as a donor but not as a master of ceremonies? May the judge support the entity with his presence so long as he does not promote the entity or engage in the solicitation of funds? Should the judge remove his name and pictures from the Foundation...
08-4 08-4.pdf May a judge attend a dinner and speak during a program celebrating a State board’s service to the citizens of Nebraska?
08-3 08-3.pdf Should a juvenile court judge recuse in a pending juvenile case where a spouse of another juvenile judge will testify in the case?
08-2 08-2.pdf Can a judge permit judicial staff attorneys to provide legal representation for individual clients apart from their regular employment with the State?
08-1 08-1.pdf Can a judge attend or participate in a political party caucus held to elect delegates committed to a certain presidential candidate in that political party?
07-4 07-4.pdf May a judge send a letter of recommendation on behalf of a high school student, at the request of that student, who seeks to attend a particular college?
07-3 07-3.pdf (1) May a quote by the judge, the judge’s name, and the judge’s title appear on a letter soliciting funds for a not-for-profit organization?(2) If not, should the author of the solicitation letter be asked to remove the judge’s quote, name, and title from the letter?(3) May the judge make a private donation to the not-for-profit organization in response to the solicitation...
07-2 07-2.pdf May a newly appointed judge sever his financial and business interests in the law firm of which he is presently a shareholder and continue to temporarily maintain a general partnership with his prior partners who own the law firm’s building and a separate L.L.C. whose sole asset is a piece of real estate taken as fees for past legal work done by the law firm?
07-1 07-1.pdf May a judge introduce the keynote speaker at an event which is primarily commemorative but at which a fee is charged to attendees to cover the cost of the meal and excess funds are used for a scholarship fund for the benefit of a particular group?
06-7 06-7.pdf (1) Can a current judge, who wants to seek a different judicial position, actively seek out support for the new judicial position from attorneys that practice before the judge?(2) Can a current judge, who wants to seek a different judicial position, actively seek out support for the new judicial position from nonattorneys that are acquaintances or friends of the judge?
06-6 06-6.pdf Can a judge serve individually or on a panel with other persons as a judge who selects winners in speech contests, pageants, talent shows or other similar events sponsored by various non-profit groups or service clubs?
06-5 06-5.pdf (1) Can a judge serve on a committee to explore policy for a local high school board of education? (2) Can a judge appear at a public hearing before a board of education or one of its committees?
06-4 06-4.pdf The question presented in this case concerns a district court judge’s participation in a seminar about defense of driving under the influence (DUI) cases, titled “DWI Defense in the 21st Century,” put on by the Nebraska Criminal Defense Attorneys Association (NCDAA). The question is whether the judge’s participation is proper where he intends to present his perspective on...
06-3 06-3.pdf Is it appropriate for a clerk magistrate or any employee of the court to place candidate signs in their yards?Is it appropriate for a clerk magistrate or records clerk to hand out campaign literature for a candidate?Does it make a difference if the clerk magistrate or records clerk is related to the candidate?
06-2 06-2.pdf Should the court be an instrument for providing brochures, pamphlets, and other informational literature for the elderly?If so, should the court limit the display of such information to nonprofit, public service types of organizations, or can the court allow the display of for-profit organizations?If so, should the court prominently display some sort of disclaimer clearly establishing the message...
06-1 06-1.pdf Can a newly appointed judge continue to serve as a trustee on a charitable foundation which does not solicit or accept donations and whose sole purpose is to donate to other charitable and nonprofit organizations?
05-4 05-4.pdf Does the Nebraska Code of Judicial Conduct prohibit the Minority and Justice Implementation Committee, a committee of the Nebraska judicial system, from accepting funds from the Nebraska State Bar Association Charitable Funds, Inc.?
05-3 05-3.pdf Can a newly appointed judge continue to serve as director of a religious foundation which does not solicit funds?Does the foundation’s requirement that its board members also be members of a specific religious affiliation or denomination prohibit the judge from continuing to serve on its board of directors?May a judge offer legal advice to the board of directors, if called on to do so?
05-2 05-2.pdf Should a judge recuse himself in a case during the pendency of which a pro se litigant in the action informs the judge that a complaint has been filed against the judge by the pro se litigant?
05-1 05-1.pdf May a judge serve on a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) board serving a county which is outside the judge's judicial district?
04-3 04-3.pdf The Supreme Court, in attorney discipline cases, appoints an attorney to act as a referee to conduct a hearing on the charges brought by the Counsel for Discipline against attorneys. When a lawyer in the law firm of the appointed referee is married to the first cousin of a Supreme Court judge, should the judge recuse in the case?
04-2 04-2.pdf Under what circumstances, if any, is it appropriate for a judge to retain a gift or honorarium for performing a wedding ceremony?
04-1 04-1.pdf May a judge attend a training conference concerning domestic violence issues? May the judge’s tuition and expenses for attending the conference be paid for by a local domestic violence project or through a grant from the Department of Justice?
03-5 03-5.pdf May a judge participate as a member of a gala ball committee for a charitable organization where the judge’s participation is limited to organizing, the judge’s name would not appear on any literature regarding the fund-raising activity, and the judge would not personally solicit any funds?
03-4 03-4.pdf What are a judge’s responsibilities under the Nebraska Code of Judicial Conduct when a member of the judge’s staff presents complaints about an attorney and requests that the judge file a disciplinary complaint with the Counsel for Discipline?
03-3 03-3.pdf Should a county judge recuse in a juvenile case where there is a difference of opinion between the Department of Health and Human Services/Office of Juvenile Services and a school district regarding in-school supervision where the judge’s spouse is a member and vice president of the school board?
03-2 03-2.pdf Is a judge whose adult child is employed by a business which is partly owned by an attorney who regularly practices before the judge disqualified from all cases involving the attorney or only disqualified from cases specifically involving the business which employs the judge’s child?
03-1 03-1.pdf Is a judge who is socially involved in a dating relationship with an attorney in a public defender’s office disqualified from all cases involving the public defender’s office or only from cases which the specific attorney, with whom the judge is involved, has appeared as attorney of record or been involved in any manner?
02-5 02-5.pdf Would it be ethical for the Nebraska District Judges' Association to take public action in the event a district judge is unjustly criticized? If it would not be ethical, would the answer be different if the Association did not take the public action itself, but assisted local and/or state bar associations?
02-4 02-4.pdf An employee of the county court and her husband have previously served as foster parents. The employee has now been appointed clerk magistrate of the county court, in a county which does not have a separate juvenile court, and asks the following questions:Is it permissible to provide foster care for children within the judicial district?Is it permissible to provide foster care for children from...
02-3 02-3.pdf Does the Code of Judicial Conduct allow a judge to author a “recruiting” letter for the Nebraska State Bar Association’s “One Hour of Sharing” campaign?Does it make a difference that this campaign seeks either “hours of service” or cash contributions “in lieu of services” from Nebraska attorneys?Does the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibit a...
02-2 02-2.pdf May a judge, pursuant to a request from an attorney, submit either a letter or affidavit to a referee in a disciplinary proceeding conducted by the Nebraska State Bar Association regarding the attorney’s fitness to continue to practice law in Nebraska?
02-1 02-1.pdf May a clerk magistrate be a candidate for election to a non-judicial office (clerk of the district court) while remaining a clerk magistrate?
01-2 01-2.pdf May a member of the judiciary who previously served as supervising deputy county attorney over the child support enforcement division of a county attorney's office preside in child support cases which were filed or being handled by the county attorney's office during the period of time the judge served as chief deputy county attorney? Specifically, should the judge consider recusal in...
01-1 01-1.pdf May a judge accept an invitation to provide a welcoming statement at an event being sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) for law enforcement officers and representatives of victim witness organizations where the attendees will receive death notification training and leadership training?
00-3 00-3.pdf May a presiding judge of the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court ethically perform his statutorily prescribed duties charging him with conservation of assets of the Workers' Compensation Trust Fund?
00-2 00-2.pdf May judges accept an invitation to be recognized as a "Judicial Fellow" by ATLA?
00-1 00-1.pdf Does participation in an auction that is intended to be a benefit and fundraiser for a local nonprofit organization constitute an ethical breach in the stated case?
99-2 99-2.pdf A Nebraska lawyer who is considering applying for a judicial vacancy inquires as to what restrictions would arise from his co-ownership, with his current law partner of a corporation which operates a retirement home in the county where the judge, if appointed, would preside. Another partner in the same corporation is also a law partner of the potential applicant. Additionally, the brother of the...
99-1 99-1.pdf Request withdrawn, opinion never issued
98-6 98-6.pdf May a clerk magistrate hear or act on cases of a law firm that employs the clerk magistrate's wife in the capacity of an office manager and bookkeeper? If a conflict exists, what, if any, conditions would be available to continue her employment?
98-5 98-5.pdf May members of a judge's spouse's law firm practice before the judge? When must the judge recuse from cases involving former clients or clients of a previous employer?
98-4 98-4.pdf May a judge write a letter of support for a funding grant on behalf of an agency providing support and assistance for the victims of crimes? Is the answer different if the agency is a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) agency?
98-3 98-3.pdf May a judge's staff engage in political activity with respect to local elections?
98-2 98-2.pdf May a clerk magistrate serve on the board of directors of a bank?
98-1 98-1.pdf Does the issuance of a protection order in which the signing judge has ex parte contact with the petitioner, either in person, by affidavit, or both, give rise to a conflict of interest such that the signing judge should recuse himself/herself from hearing further matters regarding either the same petitioner and/or the respondent, if any criminal or civil matters ensue?
97-7 97-7.pdf May a judgeserve as a trustee of a trust created for the benefit of an incapacitated cousin andreceive her Social Security disability payments as a designated payee?
97-6 97-6.pdf May a judge accept appointment to be a member of a Community Response Team which mobilizes community resources to reduce and prevent domestic violence by developing a coordinated approach to respond to crimes of domestic violence?
97-5 97-5.pdf Request withdrawn, opinion never issued
97-4 97-4.pdf Can a judge serve as a board member of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln's Chancellor's Committee of Visitors?
97-3 97-3.pdf A newly appointed judge requests an opinion whether continued service on the board of a private foundation violates the Nebraska Code of Judicial Conduct. The foundation does not solicit funds or accept funds from any source other than properties upon which the foundation was based. (The foundation is a family foundation, the original bequest was from an estate, and additional bequests are...
97-2 97-2.pdf What ethical considerations apply to the winding up of the affairs of a professional corporation, of which a newly appointed judge is the sole shareholder, particularly with respect to certain employment agreements the corporation has with other attorneys?
97-1 97-1.pdf Can a judge accept appointment to an executive branch agency advisory council?
96-9 96-9.pdf May a judge write an occasional column for a local newspaper that is published by law enforcement officers primarily for law enforcement officers?
96-8 96-8.pdf The presiding judge of a judicial district inquires:Is recusal required if one of the parties to a lawsuit is an attorney who practices law in the court where that judge presides?Does it make any difference if the attorney appears regularly in front of the judge?Does it make any difference if the attorney is the defendant in a criminal case, as opposed to being a party plaintiff or party...
96-7 96-7.pdf Must a judge disqualify from criminal cases prosecuted by the county attorney when that judge is a party to a pending appeal challenging the assessed value of the judge's personal residence?
96-6 96-6.pdf A judge inquires: Would a contribution to the Committee for an Independent Judiciary (Committee) made by his spouse from an account which bears his name as joint tenant and which is composed of her contributions (account) violate the Nebraska Code of Judicial Conduct (Code)?
96-5 96-5.pdf A judge, who has jurisdiction in certain civil matters in which his first cousin has a possible financial interest, states that he would be compelled to disqualify himself if the matter came to trial. Must the judge also disqualify himself from hearing a motion for default judgment?
96-4 96-4.pdf Under what circumstances, and pursuant to what procedure, may the law partners of an attorney appear and practice before a Nebraska judge who is the brother of that attorney?
96-3 96-3.pdf May a judge preside over cases involving lawyers who play various roles in salary negotiations with the judge's spouse's employment group or the law firms with which such lawyers are affiliated?
96-2 96-2.pdf Can a retired judge serve as an expert witness?
96-1 96-1.pdf May a judge serve as volunteer chairperson of a celebration for a local charitable organization?
95-2 95-2.pdf Under the Nebraska Code of Judicial Conduct (1992), may a Nebraska state court judge accept compensation for teaching as a adjunct faculty member at the state-supported college of law?
95-1 95-1.pdf Opinion withdrawn
94-3 94-3.pdf Must a sitting Nebraska judge recuse himself or herself simply because the judge is named as a party defendant in a case assigned to the judge?
94-2 94-2.pdf Can a judge be used as a reference in the certification process of the National Board of Trial Advocacy?
94-1 94-1.pdf Can a candidate for judgeship seek endorsement from individuals other than those listed on the application?
93-5 93-5.pdf May judges of a multi-judge court rotate service on an institutional bioethics committee?
93-4 93-4.pdf When an attorney leaves the practice of law to go on the bench and sells his interest in the firm to Partners, how do you handle the contingency fee case with another law firm, wherein the agreement between your firm and their firm is a division of whatever recovery there maybe, if any?
93-3 93-3.pdf Can a judge of a juvenile court serve as a member and/or serve as the Chair of the Nebraska Commission for the Protection of Children?
93-2 93-2.pdf A member of the Nebraska Judiciary requested the guidance of this committee as to whether or not membership in certain organizations violate Section C of Canon 2 of the Nebraska Code of Judicial Conduct (1992).The requesting judge belongs to local chapters or "lodges" of national or state organizations. To the best of the judge’s knowledge, neither organization limits membership based on race,...
93-1 93-1.pdf May a sitting Nebraska judge voluntarily render expert opinions on oil and gas law at a trial in Alaska and be compensated for the services when the opinions relate to expertise gained because of law teaching and not from being a judge?
92-8 92-8.pdf Does the Nebraska Code of Judicial conduct (1992) apply to child support referees?  If so, to what extent does the Code apply to part-time child support referees?If so, to what extent does the Code apply to full-time child support referees?
92-7 92-7.pdf A judge writes that he has been asked to submit a letter of recommendation on behalf of a court clerk who has been nominated for an award known “The Outstanding County Official of the Year.” This judge, before becoming a judge, was a county attorney who worked closely with this person and was very familiar with her work. Our opinion is requested as to whether it is ethical for this judge to write...
92-6 92-6.pdf A member of the judiciary has asked the following questions:I have a brother who is going through a dissolution.Should I recuse myself from all cases handled by the law firm representing my brother and the law firm representing his wife?If the recusal is not required, must I make a disclosure of the representation in all matters which appear before me in which an attorney from the law firm...
92-5 92-5.pdf May a judge continue to participate in his former firm's retirement plan, of which the law firm is the plan administrator?
92-4 92-4.pdf A County Judge has asked whether the employment of his wife by the Department of Social Services creates any ethical conflict under the Code of Judicial Conduct.
92-3 92-3.pdf A member of the Nebraska judiciary asks for an opinion as to whether the judge can appear before a City Planning Commission, either alone or in conjunction with others, and express support or opposition to a proposed development.  Real estate owned by the judge could be affected by the decision of the commission.
92-2 92-2.pdf A member of the Nebraska judiciary asks for an opinion on the following:Can the judge ethically legal documents in connection with an adoption of a child by the judge's daughter and her husband?Can the judge ethically file the documents in the county court as legal representative for his daughter and her husband?Can the judge ethically appear at the adoption hearing as the legal representative...
92-1 92-1.pdf A member of the judiciary has a son who is a lawyer member of the local public defender's staff. Various members of that staff, which number in excess of ten lawyer members, regularly and routinely represent clients who are charged with criminal and traffic violations of city ordinances and state statutes, including both misdemeanors and felonies. Because of the number of staff attorneys...
91-2 91-2.pdf Under the Code of Judicial Conduct, may a judge be a member of the Knights of Columbus?
91-1 91-1.pdf May a judge respond to a request from Martindale-Hubbell asking for a rating and recommendation of an attorney?
90-3 90-3.pdf A member of the Nebraska Judiciary has made an inquiry regarding the propriety of monetary contributions from members of the judiciary to the committee (COMMITTEE) supporting passage of Constitutional Amendment 2 (C .A. 2). If adopted, C.A.2 would remove the absolute right of appeal to the Supreme Court in most cases and permit the establishment of an intermediate appellate court in Nebraska.
90-2 90-2.pdf A member of the Nebraska judiciary has inquired whether a judge may write letters of recommendation and/or answer questions about the qualifications of a lawyer who has applied to a judicial nominating commission for submission of the lawyer's name to the governor for judicial appointment.
90-1 90-1.pdf The member of the judiciary inquires as follows:Can a judge be a member of the Board of Trustees of a private, nonprofit educational institution (membership predates the appointment of that judge to the judiciary)?Because the fund-raising activities of the Board of Trustees is likely to continue in the future, should the judge, though not participating by name or directly in any fundraising...
89-9 89-9.pdf The daughter of a judge who is attending law school will be doing pro bono work at a legal aid agency in the judge's district. She will be involved in legal research on social security matters, on modifications on support cases and on other general litigation. The judge asked the question whether or not this would preclude him from handling cases in which this legal aid agency is involved.
89-8 89-8.pdf A Judge of the Judiciary of the State of Nebraska, who is a member of a national service organization which is open to membership to all people of good character, desires to run for election as a member of the board of directors of that organization, serving the geographic area of Nebraska and surrounding states. He will be compensated with funds to cover expenses incurred through a due...
89-7 89-7.pdf A judge has been requested by a former member of the Nebraska State Bar to fill out a "proof of practice" form for the Illinois State Bar so he may be admitted to practice in that State. The only statement that the judge intends to make on behalf of the attorney is that the judge knows that the attorney was employed for the State of Nebraska tax commissioner and that he represented the State in...
89-6 89-6.pdf A judge has been asked to perform a simulated marriage ceremony in Nebraska for the benefit of family living here. The couple has already been legally married in another state. The judge has requested an opinion as to whether this would constitute conduct in violation of the Canons of Judicial Conduct.
89-5 89-5.pdf A member of the Nebraska Judiciary has a brother-in-law who practices law in the city and county wherein the judge sits. The brother-in-law shares offices with one other attorney, though not on a partnership basis but instead on an office sharing arrangement.1. In order to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, should the judge recuse himself/herself from every facet of the brother-in-law's...
89-4 89-4.pdf May a judge who owns stock in two banks; one state chartered and one federally chartered, and who also served on the boards of directors of both banks at the time of the judge’s appointment to the bench continue to own stock in both banks and continue to serve on the board of directors?
89-3 89-3.pdf The daughter of a member of the State Judiciary was recently hired as a salaried associate in a law firm which frequently appears in cases before the Court in which the judge in question sits. The judge has posed two questions:Should the judge recuse himself/herself in cases handled by other attorneys of the firm which employs the daughter?In the event recusal is not mandated by the Code of...
89-2 89-2.pdf Is it proper for a judge who has recused himself in criminal proceedings against a lawyer who practiced in his court to write a letter on the behalf of the lawyer to be included in the presentence investigation being prepared in connection with those criminal proceedings?
89-1 89-1.pdf Will a promissory note approach to partnership distribution create any ethical problems?  Will continued employment of the new judge's wife by his former firm create conflict problems? If so, can she continue at the firm until she can find herself a suitable new position and until the firm can replace her?