Family Matters


Like existing ethics guidelines for judges in other states, territories, and commonwealths, the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct effective January 1, 2009 continues to call for judges to “recuse” or “disqualify” themselves from cases intersecting their household and extended family activities and interests. Indiana adopted substantially all of the American Bar Association's 2007 Model Code of Judicial Conduct, but made several modifications that impact the judge's family:

  • "Judges, as parents, may assist their children in their fund-raising activities if the procedures employed are not coercive and the sums nominal." See Rule 3.7 Comment [6]
  • A judge as a family member may "accompany a member of the judge’s family at events related directly and solely to that person’s candidacy for public office." See Rule 4.1, Comment [5]
  • "A judge's assistance to a family member in legal matters may not include signing pleadings or appearing before a tribunal for a family member." See Rule 3.10 and Comment [2]
  • A judge may appear before governmental bodies and consult with governmental officials in matters involving the judge's legal or economic interests and "of members of the judge's family residing in the judge's household." See Rule 3.2(C)
  • A judge may not directly solicit funds for educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organizations and activities; but may engage in activities such as "volunteering services or goods at fund-raising events." See Rule 3.7(a)(1)
  • A judge's obligation to "recuse" or "disqualify" themselves from cases intersecting their household and extended family activities and interest may not be excused by consent of the parties after disclosure by the judge. Indiana chose not to adopt ABA Model Rule 2.11(C). 
  • While adopting the ABA Model Code language stating that judges "shall avoid nepotism," Indiana added a provision that urges judges to consult the staff or advisory opinions of the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission to determine whether the hiring or appointing of a relative "may be justifiable under the circumstances." See Rule 2.13, Comment [3]

Indiana was the second state to adopt new judicial ethics rules based on the new national model. The draft was reviewed by judges, lawyers, and the public before adoption by the Indiana Supreme Court. The 2009 Indiana Code emphasizes the “three I’s” of judicial conduct - independence, integrity, and impartiality. It continues to hold judges to strict standards of conduct in all activities. The Code also encourages judges to reach out to the public to promote understanding of the judicial system. The new Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct may be seen here.

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committees across the country do not have jurisdiction over judges' spouses and children.  See other Judicial Family Institute (JFI) articles.