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ABA adopts new judicial conduct policies

[JURIST] The American Bar Association (ABA) [official website] House of Delegates adopted new policies Monday reforming the Model Code of Judicial Conduct [text, PDF; ABA backgrounder] to limit certain political activities of judges. The adopted rules include a prohibition on campaign promises regarding cases that a judge may later hear and guidelines for receiving gifts. The new guideines also changed the old rule that judges should avoid "the appearance of impropriety" to a suggestion that they do so. This change sparked controversy when it was proposed, prompting one former advisor to the ABA commission to resign [JURIST report]. The Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) issued a resolution [text] oposing the change and calling for the rule's reinstatement [press release].

For the first time, the model rules were amended to include prohibitions against sexual harassment, although some advocacy groups believe these changes do not go far enough [AP report]. The 546-member House of Delegates also came out against the "criminalization of homelessness," and encouraged the legal profession to search for solutions other than punishing those who eat or sleep in public. Based on recommendations from the ABA Task Force on Hurricane Katrina [official website], the House also adopted a rule permitting lawyers from other jurisdictions to provide pro bono services in areas affected by emergencies. Additional policies were adopted regarding the conditions of youth resident treatment facilities, legal assistance for low-income military personnel, and the resources available to those facing trial in the criminal justice system. ABA News has more.

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