CANON 3 ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct

Terms marked with an asterisk (*) are defined in the Terminology Section of the Code.

E. Disqualification.

(1) A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality* might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to instances where:


Under this rule, a judge is disqualified whenever the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, regardless whether any of the specific rules in Section 3E(1) apply. For example, if a judge were in the process of negotiating for employment with a law firm, the judge would be disqualified from any matters in which that law firm appeared, unless the disqualification was waived by the parties after disclosure by the judge.

A judge should disclose on the record information that the judge believes the parties or their lawyers might consider relevant to the question of disqualification, even if the judge believes there is no real basis for disqualification.

By decisional law, the rule of necessity may override the rule of disqualification. For example, a judge might be required to participate in judicial review of a judicial salary statute, or might be the only judge available in a matter requiring immediate judicial action, such as a hearing on probable cause or a temporary restraining order. In the latter case, the judge must disclose on the record the basis for possible disqualification and use reasonable efforts to transfer the matter to another judge as soon as practicable.

(a) the judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or a party’s lawyer, or personal knowledge* of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding;

(b) the judge served as a lawyer in the matter in controversy, or a lawyer with whom the judge previously practiced law served during such association as a lawyer concerning the matter, or the judge has been a material witness concerning it;


A lawyer in a government agency does not ordinarily have an association with other lawyers employed by that agency within the meaning of Section 3E(1)(b); a judge formerly employed by a government agency, however, should disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding if the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned because of such association.

(c) the judge knows* that he or she, individually or as a fiduciary, or the judge’s spouse, parent or child wherever residing, or any other member of the judge’s family residing in the judge’s household*, has an economic interest* in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding or has any other more than de minimis* interest that could be substantially affected by the proceeding;

(d) the judge or the judge’s spouse, or a person within the third degree of relationship* to either of them, or the spouse of such a person:

(i) is a party to the proceeding, or an officer, director or trustee of a party;

(ii) is acting as a lawyer in the proceeding;

(iii) is known* by the judge to have a more than de minimis* interest that could be substantially affected by the proceeding;

(iv) is to the judge’s knowledge* likely to be a material witness in the proceeding;

(e) the judge knows or learns by means of a timely motion that a party or a party's lawyer has within the previous [ ] year[s] made aggregate* contributions to the judge's campaign in an amount that is greater than [[ [$ ] for an individual or [$ ] for an entity] ]] [[is reasonable and appropriate for an individual or an entity]]. fn 4

(f) the judge, while a judge or a candidate* for judicial office, has made a public statement that commits, or appears to commit, the judge with respect to

(i) an issue in the proceeding; or

(ii) the controversy in the proceeding.


The fact that a lawyer in a proceeding is affiliated with a law firm with which a relative of the judge is affiliated does not of itself disqualify the judge. Under appropriate circumstances, the fact that "the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned" under Section 3E(1), or that the relative is known by the judge to have an interest in the law firm that could be "substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding" under Section 3E(1)(d)(iii) may require the judge’s disqualification.

(2) A judge shall keep informed about the judge’s personal and fiduciary* economic interests*, and make a reasonable effort to keep informed about the personal economic interests of the judge’s spouse and minor children residing in the judge’s household.


fn 4 This provision is meant to be applicable wherever judges are subject to public election. Jurisdictions that adopt specific dollar limits on contributions in section 5(C)(3) should adopt the same limits in section 3(E)(1)(e). Where specific dollar amounts determined by local circumstances are not used, the "reasonable and appropriate" language should be used.

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