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A California Supreme Court advisory committee has issued proposed amendments to the state’s Code of Judicial Ethics that spell out when appellate court justices must disqualify themselves from a case. The proposals, put into circulation last week, are aimed at giving justices disqualification guidelines somewhat similar to those that have long existed for trial court judges in California’s Code of Civil Procedure. “We took a look at the Code of Judicial Ethics, and we found that there wasn’t much on this particular area,” said Beth Jay, the Supreme Court’s liaison to the advisory committee. “There’s a lot on trial judges but not on appellate court justices,” said Jay, who is the principal attorney to California Chief Justice Ronald George. “The thought was that it might be beneficial for the justices and the public to have more knowledge” about when justices should disqualify themselves. Others on the committee besides Jay were First District Court of Appeal Justice Barbara Jones; retired Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Rothman, who authored the handbook on California judicial conduct; Trinity County Superior Court Judge John Letton; and Second District Justice Charles Vogel, who was the chairman. Jay said the committee, whose membership varies from time to time, has made other recommendations for ethics code amendments in the past. For example, a previous recommendation involved when judges must report any personal criminal charge or conviction. The current recommendations, Jay said, were the result of a legislative inquiry to the Office of Government Affairs, the lobbying arm of the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts. However, neither Jay nor Chief Justice George knew what or who sparked the inquiry. The proposed amendments, which will be circulated for comment until Oct. 1, require justices to disqualify themselves when: � They have served as a lawyer in the pending matter or in any matter involving the same parties that relates to the same contested facts or law. � Within the last two years, a party to the proceeding was a client; or was a client of a lawyer associated with the justice in private practice; or when a lawyer in the proceeding was associated with the justice in private practice. � The justice represented or personally advised a public officer or entity concerning the issues involved in the current proceeding. � The justice, his or her spouse, or a minor child in the household is a fiduciary or has a financial interest in one party that exceeds more than one percent legal or equitable interest or a fair market value of more than $1,500. � The justice presided over the case in a lower court, has personal knowledge of the disputed facts, or has a personal bias for or against one party. � Physical impairments prevent the judge from properly perceiving the evidence or conducting the proceeding. Constance Dove, executive director of the Oakland-based California Judges Association, said Tuesday that her group has no serious problems with the proposals. “This is the product of a lot of back-and-forth [negotiations],” she said. “We were given the opportunity to comment while it was being written, so most of our concerns are reflected in the current draft.” Dove said the first version was “very different,” but she couldn’t recall specifics. “You can safely say,” she said, “that neither our appellate committee nor our ethics committee thought it was inappropriate to have disqualification standards [for appellate justices] spelled out.”

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