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Judicial ethics, Judicial performance, Judicial disqualification, Canons of Judicial Ethics


Judges | Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility


While the ethics of the American judiciary cover a broad spectrum, both good and bad, the general over-all level of judicial ethical performance is relatively high. Most judges are honest and honorable. Where dissatisfaction is apparent, it is far more frequently directed at judicial competence than at judicial integrity and ethics. Corruption, dishonesty, susceptibility to political pressure, and other ethical lapses are, however, not unknown, and on very rare occasions have been extremely bad. The ethical obligations of the judiciary extend far beyond the basic essentials of honesty, impartiality, and fairness. Judges must not only avoid evil or wrongdoing, but must also avoid any appearance or suspicion of impropriety, both on the bench and in private life. Selected ethical problems are identified together with some of the areas where significant ethical lapses are to be found. While our judiciary has done well in meeting its ethical obligations, improvement is still needed. The best assurance for high ethical performance comes from insistence upon outstanding integrity from those selected for judicial office.


Article is part of issue devoted to "Ethics in America: Norms and Deviations," subsection, "Unethical Behavior in Government."

Publication Citation

Published in: The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 363, no. 1 (January 1966).