Duly Noted

Proposed Judicial Conduct rules changes on agenda for Supreme Court public hearing

A proposed clarification of ethics rules on judges soliciting donations for charities and similar organizations was on the agenda for the March 28 Michigan Supreme Court’s public administrative hearing.

Canon 5 of the Code of Judicial Conduct allows judges to participate in “civic and charitable activities” that do not put a judge’s impartiality in doubt or interfere with the judge’s duties. But, while allowing a judge to “join a general appeal on behalf of an educational, religious, charitable, or fraternal organization,” ethics rules bar judges from individually soliciting donations. The proposed changes would clarify that “[a] judge may speak on behalf of such an organization and may speak at or receive an award or other recognition in connection with an event of such an organization.” The proposals would allow a judge to participate in the same ways at a law-related organization’s fundraiser. But the amendments would also prohibit a judge from allowing his/her name to be used in fund-
raiser advertising, unless the judge was simply a member of an honorary committee or participating in a general appeal. (ADM File No. 2005-11).
The proposals and related comments are available at www.courts.michigan.gov/supremecourt/Resources/Administrative/index.htm#proposed.

Also on the agenda were:

ADM File No. 2010-22, proposed amendment of Michigan Rule of Professional Conduct 7.3, “Direct Contact with Prospective Clients.” The rule prevents attorneys from soliciting “professional employment from a prospective client with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship …” The proposed amendment would add that, in family law cases, “a lawyer shall not initiate contact or solicit a party to establish a client-lawyer relationship until the initiating documents have been served upon that party or 14 days have passed since the document was filed, whichever action occurs first.” The State Bar of Michigan’s Representative Assembly suggested the service/14-day restriction to reduce the risk that a defendant in a family law case would assault the other partner, abscond with children, or commit “other illegal actions” before the papers can be served.

ADM File No. 2010-25, proposed amendment of Michigan Court Rule 7.210, would make “the trial court or tribunal” the repository for “all documentary, photographic, video, or audio” trial exhibits in a case, whether those exhibits had been admitted into evidence, until after the time for appeal expires.