Introduction to the Standing Committee on Judicial Ethics

A. Created by Nevada Supreme Court Rule in 1998. The purpose of the Committee is to provide judges and aspirants to judicial office advisory opinions regarding ethical matters that may arise in the ordinary course of judicial service, or in the elective or appointive process.

B. Functions.

  1. Render non-binding advisory opinions on hypothetical questions regarding the Revised Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct.
  2. Assist the Nevada Supreme Court by studying and recommending additions to, amendments to, or repeal of provisions of the Revised Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct or other laws governing the conduct of judges and judicial candidates.

C. Membership.

  1. Six judges appointed by the Nevada Supreme Court. Three must be limited jurisdiction judges and three must be district court judges. 
  2. Twelve attorneys appointed by the State Bar of Nevada, one of whom is the chair and one of whom is the vice-chair. The two officers are elected by the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline.

D. Terms. Two-year terms with a collective limit of no more than four consecutive full terms.

E.  Ethical Inquiries.

  1. A judge or judicial candidate may contact Standing Committee staff with an ethical inquiry via phone: (775) 687-4017 or email:  Staff receives several inquiries per week, which often require research to address.  Inquiries are handled on a first come first serve basis and will be responded to in the order they are received. 
  2. These inquiries are informal, therefore nothing will be provided by staff in writing, as any information given is simply guidance regarding the ethical inquiry received.  If an ethical inquiry has not been addressed by the Standing Committee in previously issued advisory opinions, staff may suggest that a formal advisory opinion request be submitted. 

F.  Advisory Opinions.

  1. Process. A judge or candidate submits written requests to the Executive Director via email to Legal research submitted by the judge is accepted and encouraged. The chair decides whether to form a panel and if he/she does, the Committee's Management Analyst contacts attorneys and judges to participate. Each panel must have one district judge and one limited jurisdiction judge, and six attorneys (including either the chair or vice-chair). Panel members discuss the ethical issue(s) via video or telephonic conference and vote to issue an opinion or not, and what the conclusion will be. The chair or vice-chair drafts the opinion or assigns the task to another attorney member of the panel. Each panel member reviews the draft and provides input regarding the written product. The final opinion is signed by the panel chair, filed with the clerk of the Nevada Supreme Court and posted on the Committee website. 
  2. Limitations. The Committee shall not act on requests for opinions when any of the following circumstances exist:
    1. There is a pending State Bar or Judicial Discipline Commission complaint, investigation, proceeding, or litigation concerning the subject of the request.
    2. The request constitutes a complaint against a member of the judiciary.
    3. The request involves procedures employed by the Judicial Discipline Commission in processing complaints against judges.
    4. The request involves activities, the propriety of which depends principally on a question of law unrelated to judicial ethics.
    5. Where it is known that the request involves a situation in litigation or concerns threatened litigation or involves the propriety of sanctions within the purview of the courts, such as contempt.
    6. The committee has by majority vote determined that it would be inadvisable to respond to the request and has specified in writing its reasoning to the person who requested the opinion.