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The California Supreme Court has declined a request by local bar associations that all judges be prohibited from belonging to the Boy Scouts of America. But the court adopted new ethics rules Wednesday that put more pressure on judges to disqualify themselves “in some instances” because of such membership. Specifically, the court did not make any changes to the Canons of Judicial Ethics. The Canons forbid judges from belonging to groups that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, but make an exception for nonprofit youth organizations. But the court did add commentary to Canon 3E stating: “In some instances, membership in certain organizations may have the potential to give an appearance of partiality, although membership in the organization generally may not be barred by Canon 2C, Canon 4, or any other specific canon. A judge holding membership in an organization should disqualify himself or herself whenever doing so would be appropriate in accordance with Canon 3E(1) or 3E(3) or statutory requirements. “In addition, in some circumstances, the parties or their lawyers may consider a judge’s membership in an organization relevant to the question of disqualification, even if the judge believes there is no actual basis for disqualification. In accordance with this Canon, a judge should disclose to the parties his or her membership in an organization, in any proceeding in which the judge believes the parties or their lawyers might consider this information relevant to the question of disqualification, even if the judge concludes there is no actual basis for disqualification.” A full version of this story will be posted here at approximately 7 p.m. PDT.

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