Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Creates New Judicial Ethics Advisory Board
January 14, 2022
Committed to ensuring the continued integrity and public trust of Pennsylvania’s judiciary, the Supreme Court has announced the creation of a new judicial ethics advisory board.
Created by an Order issued by the Court today, the Judicial Ethics Advisory Board, JEAB, will be charged with rendering advisory opinions concerning proper conduct under the Code of Judicial Conduct and the Rules Governing Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges.
Currently, Pennsylvania’s judicial ethics apparatus is unique in that two separate committees render advice, one made up solely of common pleas court judges and the other made up solely of magisterial district judges.
The JEAB will be a single board made up of nine members and will include appellate judges as well as judges from the common pleas and magisterial district courts. It will also include an attorney member who is not a judge. The JEAB will have permanent staff and the board members will undergo specialized ethics training before beginning their service.
“While our current judicial ethics system has served the judiciary well to this point, the multiple board structure is an outlier when compared to other states and the federal system,” said Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Max Baer. “The new, single advisory board structure will afford significant improvement and provide consistency and transparency.”
A single board, with broader representation, adequate staff, and well-trained members will provide not only prompt and reliable advice to judges and judicial candidates but also an accessible database of advisory opinions and general guidance which can be referenced and followed moving forward.”
Appointed by the Supreme Court, the JEAB will be separate from the judicial conduct structures of the Judicial Conduct Board and the Court of Judicial Discipline. As outlined in the Court’s Order, the JEAB will provide ethics advisory opinions upon request of any judicial officer or judicial candidate. The JEAB rules provide for certain protections, known as the “rule of reliance,” where judges request and follow JEAB ethics advice. Those provisions, which replace the current rules of reliance, go into effect on July 1, 2022, and will be in place of the current committees.
“The Court appreciates the valuable work performed by the judges who have served on the SCJAP and PCSTJ Ethics Committees and we are confident that the JEAB will build on that history to provided continued support for judges statewide,” Baer said.
Established in 1722, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is the oldest appellate court in the country and has played an important role in the history of the Commonwealth. As the state’s highest court, the seven justices make the final decisions interpreting Pennsylvania’s laws and Constitution, have full administrative authority over Pennsylvania’s judicial system and hear cases involving issues of immediate public importance arising in any court in the Commonwealth.