CHAPTER SCR 60
CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT
SCR 60   Preamble.
SCR 60.01   Definitions.
SCR 60.02   A judge shall uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary.
SCR 60.03   A judge shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the judge's activities.
SCR 60.04   A judge shall perform the duties of judicial office impartially and diligently.
SCR 60.05   A judge shall so conduct the judge's extra-judicial activities as to minimize the risk of conflict with judicial obligations.
SCR 60.06   A judge or judicial candidate shall refrain from inappropriate political activity.
SCR 60.07   Applicability.
APPENDIX
SCR 60 Note Judicial Council Committee's Note, 1979: The following rules, called the code of judicial conduct, govern the members of the Wisconsin judiciary. These rules were originally adopted by the supreme court on November 14, 1967, effective January 1, 1968. They were amended on June 28, 1974; December 23, 1977; March 16, 1978; March 28, 1978; and November 20, 1979. The rules were originally numbered standards 1 to 16 and rules 1 to 17. They have been clarified and numbered SCR 60.001 to 60.19 for uniformity and convenience.
Effective date note Note: SCR Chapter 60 was amended January 16, 1985; April 29, 1985; November 17, 1994. SCR Chapter 60 was repealed and recreated July 1, 1996, amended 12-20-96, eff. January 1, 1997 and modified July 7, 1997; amended April 6, 2001; November 14, 2001; April 1, 2002; January 1, 2005; January 1, 2007; July 7, 2010; July 1, 2010; July 1, 2014.
SCR 60 Note SCR 60 Preamble. Our legal system is based on the principle that an independent, fair and competent judiciary will interpret and apply the laws that govern us. The role of the judiciary is central to American concepts of justice and the rule of law. Intrinsic to all provisions of this Code are the precepts that judges, individually and collectively, must respect and honor the judicial office as a public trust and strive to enhance and maintain confidence in our legal system. The judge is an arbiter of facts and law for the resolution of disputes and a highly visible symbol of government under the rule of law.
SCR 60 Note   The rules of the Code of Judicial Conduct are authoritative. The Commentary, has three varying functions: 1) to elaborate a standard in the rules; 2) to set forth policy bases for the rules; or 3) by explanation and example, to provide guidance with respect to the purpose and meaning of the rules. The Commentary is not intended as a statement of additional rules.
SCR 60 Note   When the text of a rule uses “shall," “shall not" or “may not," it is intended to impose binding obligations the violation of which can result in disciplinary action. For a judge's conduct to constitute a violation of a rule, the judge must have known or reasonably should have known the facts giving rise to the violation.
SCR 60 Note   The use of “should" or “should not" in the rules is intended to encourage or discourage specific conduct and as a statement of what is or is not appropriate conduct but not as a binding rule under which a judge may be disciplined. When “may" is used, it denotes permissible discretion or, depending on the context, it refers to action that is not covered by specific proscriptions.
SCR 60 Note   The provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct are rules of reason. They should be applied consistent with constitutional requirements, statutes, other court rules and decisional law and in the context of all relevant circumstances. The Code is to be construed so as not to impinge on the essential independence of judges in making judicial decisions.
SCR 60 Note   The Code is designed to provide guidance to judges and candidates for judicial office and to provide a structure for regulating conduct through disciplinary agencies. It is not designed or intended as a basis for civil liability or criminal prosecution. Furthermore, the purpose of the Code would be subverted if the Code were invoked by lawyers or litigants for mere tactical advantage in a proceeding.
SCR 60 Note   The provisions of the Code are intended to govern conduct of judges and to be binding upon them. It is not intended, however, that every transgression will result in disciplinary action. Whether disciplinary action is appropriate, and the degree of discipline to be imposed, should be determined through a reasonable and reasoned application of the text and should depend on such factors as the seriousness of the transgression, whether there is a pattern of improper activity and the effect of the improper activity on others or on the judicial system. See ABA Standards Relating to Judicial Discipline and Disability Retirement.
SCR 60 Note   Because it is not possible to address every conceivable conduct of a judge that might erode public confidence in the integrity, independence and impartiality of the judiciary, some of the binding rules of the Code are cast in general terms setting forth the principles their specific provisions are intended to foster. See, for example, SCR 60.02, 60.03 (1) and 60.05 (1) and accompanying Comments. Those rules provide a touchstone against which judicial conduct, actual or contemplated, is to be measured. Care must be taken that the Code's necessarily general rules do not constitute a trap for the unwary judge or a weapon to be wielded unscrupulously against a judge.
SCR 60 Note   The Code of Judicial Conduct is not intended as an exhaustive guide for the conduct of judges. They should also be governed in their judicial and personal conduct by general ethical standards. The Code is intended, however, to state basic standards which should govern the conduct of all judges and to provide guidance to assist judges in establishing and maintaining high standards of judicial and personal conduct.
60.01 SCR 60.01 Definitions. In this chapter:
60.01(1) (1) “Appropriate authority" means the chief judge of an offending judge's district, the director of state courts, the judicial commission, and the office of lawyer regulation.
60.01(2) (2) “Candidate" means a person seeking selection for or retention of a judicial office by means of election or appointment who makes a public announcement of candidacy, declares or files as a candidate with the election or appointment authority, or authorizes solicitation or acceptance of contributions or support.
60.01(3) (3) “Court personnel" means staff, court officials and others subject to the judge's direction and control, including judicial assistants, reporters, law clerks, and bailiffs. “Court personnel" does not include the lawyers in a judicial proceeding.
60.01(4) (4) “De minimis" means an insignificant interest that does not raise reasonable question as to a judge's impartiality or use of the prestige of the office.
60.01(5) (5) “Economic interest" means ownership of a more than de minimis legal or equitable interest, or a relationship as officer, director, advisor or other active participant in the affairs of a party, except that none of the following is an economic interest:
60.01(5)(a) (a) Ownership of an interest in a mutual or common investment fund that holds securities, unless the judge participates in the management of the fund or unless a proceeding pending or impending before the judge could substantially affect the value of the interest.
60.01(5)(b) (b) Service by a judge as an officer, director, advisor or other active participant in an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic organization, or service by a judge's spouse or child as an officer, director, advisor or other active participant in any organization.
60.01(5)(c) (c) A deposit in a financial institution, the proprietary interest of a policyholder in a mutual insurance company, of a depositor in a mutual savings association or of a member in a credit union, or a similar proprietary interest, unless a proceeding pending or impending before the judge could substantially affect the value of the interest.
60.01(5)(d) (d) Ownership of government securities, unless a proceeding pending or impending before the judge could substantially affect the value of the securities.
60.01(6) (6) “Fiduciary" means a personal representative, trustee, attorney-in-fact, conservator or guardian.
60.01(7) (7) “Gift" means the payment or receipt of anything of value without valuable consideration.
60.01(7m) (7m) “Impartiality" means the absence of bias or prejudice in favor of, or against, particular parties, or classes of parties, as well as maintaining an open mind in considering issues that may come before the judge.
60.01(8) (8) “Judge" means a justice of the supreme court, a judge of the court of appeals, a judge of the circuit court, a reserve judge, a municipal judge, a court commissioner, and anyone, whether or not a lawyer, who is an officer of the judicial system and who performs judicial functions.
60.01(8m) (8m) “Judge-elect" means a person who has been elected or appointed to judicial office but has not yet taken office.
60.01(9) (9) “Knowingly" or “knowledge" means actual knowledge of the fact in question, which may be inferred from the circumstances.
60.01(10) (10) “Law" means court rules, statutes, constitutional provisions and legal conclusions in published court decisions.
60.01(11) (11) “Member of the judge's family" means the judge's spouse, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent and any other relative or person with whom the judge maintains a close familial relationship.
60.01(12) (12) “Member of the judge's family residing in the judge's household" means a relative of the judge by blood or marriage or a person treated by the judge as a member of the judge's family who resides in the judge's household.
60.01(13) (13) “Nonpublic information" means information that, by law, is not available to the public, including information that is sealed by statute or court order, impounded or communicated in camera, offered in grand jury proceedings or contained in presentencing reports, dependency case reports or psychiatric reports.
60.01(14) (14) “Part-time municipal judge" or “part-time court commissioner" means a judge or court commissioner who serves repeatedly on a part-time basis by election or under a continuing appointment.
60.01(15) (15) “Require" means the exercise of reasonable direction and control over the conduct of those persons subject to the directions and control.
60.01(16) (16) “Third degree of kinship" means a person who is related as a great-grandparent, grandparent, parent, uncle, aunt, brother, sister, child, grandchild, great-grandchild, nephew or niece.
SCR 60.01 History History: Sup. Ct. Order No. 95–05, 202 Wis. 2d xvii (1997); Sup. Ct. Order No. 01-12, 2001 WI 120, 247 Wis. 2d xiii; Sup. Ct. Order No. 00-07, 2004 WI 134, 274 Wis. 2d xvii.
60.02 SCR 60.02 A judge shall uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary. An independent and honorable judiciary is indispensable to justice in our society. A judge should participate in establishing, maintaining and enforcing high standards of conduct and shall personally observe those standards so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary will be preserved. This chapter applies to every aspect of judicial behavior except purely legal decisions. Legal decisions made in the course of judicial duty on the record are subject solely to judicial review.
SCR 60.02 Note Comment: Deference to the judgments and rulings of courts depends upon public confidence in the integrity and independence of the judges. The integrity and independence of judges depend in turn upon their acting without fear or favor. Although judges should be independent, they must comply with the law, including the provisions of this chapter. Public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary is maintained by the adherence of each judge to this responsibility. Conversely, violation of this chapter diminishes public confidence in the judiciary and thereby does injury to the system of government under law.
SCR 60.02 Annotation The role of the judicial conduct organization like the Wisconsin Judicial Commission is not that of an appellate court. Wis. Admin. Code Sec. JC 3.06 (May 1979) states as follows: “Commission not to act as appellate court. The commission may not function as an appellate court to review the decisions of a court or judge or to exercise superintending or administrative control over determinations of courts or judges." It is important to remember this concept as one interprets this chapter, particularly in light of the practice of some groups or individuals to encourage dissatisfied litigants to file simultaneous appeals and judicial conduct complaints.
SCR 60.02 History History: Sup. Ct. Order No. 95–05, 202 Wis. 2d xvii (1997), modified 210 Wis. 2d xvii (1998).
60.03 SCR 60.03 A judge shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the judge's activities.
60.03(1)(1) A judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
SCR 60.03 Note Comment: Public confidence in the judiciary is eroded by irresponsible or improper conduct of judges. A judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. A judge must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny. A judge must therefore accept restrictions on the judge's conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and willingly.
SCR 60.03 Annotation The prohibition against behaving with impropriety or the appearance of impropriety applies to both the professional and personal conduct of a judge. Because it is not practicable to list all prohibited acts, the proscription is necessarily cast in general terms that extend to conduct by judges that is harmful although not specifically mentioned in the chapter. Actual improprieties under this standard include violations of law, court rules or other specific provisions of this chapter. The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge's ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity, impartiality and competence is impaired.
SCR 60.03 Annotation Restrictions on the personal conduct of judges cannot, however, be so onerous as to deprive them of fundamental freedoms enjoyed by other citizens. Care must be taken to achieve a balance between the need to maintain the integrity and dignity of the judiciary and the right of judges to conduct their personal lives in accordance with the dictates of their individual consciences.
SCR 60.03 Annotation In striking this balance the following factors should be considered:
SCR 60.03 Annotation (a) the degree to which the personal conduct is public or private;
SCR 60.03 Annotation (b) the degree to which the personal conduct is a protected individual right;
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Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules updated by the Legislative Reference Bureau. Current through all Supreme Court Orders entered before October 2, 2017. Report errors at (608) 266-3561, FAX 264-6948.