Canon 8

Construction and Terminology of the Code


A. Construction

The Code of Judicial Conduct is intended to establish basic standards for ethical conduct of judges. It consists of specific rules set forth in Sections under broad captions called Canons.

The Sections are rules of reason, which 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.

The Code is designed to provide guidance to judges and candidates for judicial office and to provide a structure for regulating conduct through the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. It is not designed or intended as a basis for civil liability of criminal prosecution. Furthermore, the purpose of the Code would be subverted if the Code were invoked by lawyers for mere tactical advantage in a proceeding.

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 test 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 judicical system.

B. Terminology

(1) "Shall" or "shall not" denotes binding obligations the violation of which can result in disciplinary action.

(2) "Should" or "should not" relates to aspirational goals 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.

(3) "May" denotes permissible discretion or, depending on the context, refers to action that is not covered by specific proscriptions.

(4) "De minimus" denotes an insignificant interest that could not raise reasonable question as to a judge's impartiality.

(5) "Economic interest" denotes 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:

(i) ownership of an interest in a mutual or common investment fund that holds securities is not an economic interest in such securities unless the judge participates in the management of the fund or a proceeding pending or impending before the judge could substantially affect the value of the interest;

(ii) 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, parent or child as an officer, director, advisor or other active participant in any organization does not create an economic interest in securities held by that organization;

(iii) a deposit in a financial institution, the proprietary interest of a policy holder 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, is not an economic interest in the organization unless a proceeding pending or impending before the judge could substantially affect the value of the interest; and

(iv) ownership of government securities is not an economic interest in the issuer unless a proceeding pending or impending before the judge could substantially affect the value of the securities.

(6) "Fiduciary" includes such relationships as executor, administrator, trustee, and guardian.

(7) "Knowingly," "knowledge," "known" or "knows" denotes actual knowledge of the fact in question. A person's knowledge may be inferred from circumstances.

(8) "Law" denotes court rules as well as statutes, constitutional provisions and decisional law.

(9) "Member of the judge's (or the candidate's) family" denotes a spouse, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent or other relative or person with whom the candidate maintains a close familial relationship.

(10) "Family member residing in the judge's household" means any relative of a judge by blood or marriage, or a person treated by a judge as a member of the judge's family, who resides at the judge's household.

(11) "Require." The rules prescribing that a judge "require" certain conduct of others are, like all of the rules in this Code, rules of reason. The use of the term "require" in that context means a judge is to exercise reasonable direction and control over the conduct of those persons subject to the judge's direction and control.

(12) "Third degree of relationship." The following persons are relatives within the third degree of relationship: great-grandparent, grandparent, parent, uncle, aunt, brother, sister, child, grandchild, great-grandchild, nephew or niece.

(13) "Retired Judge" means a person who receives from the Texas Judicial Retirement System, Plan One or Plan Two, an annuity based on service that was credited to the system. (Secs. 831.001 and 836.001, V.T.C. A. Government Code [Ch. 179, Sec. 1, 71st Legislature (1989)])

(14) "Senior Judge" means a retired appellate or district judge who has consented to be subject to assignment pursuant to Section 75.001, Government code. [Ch. 359, 69th Legislature, Reg. Session (1985)]

(15) "Statutory County Court Judge" means the judge of a county court created by the legislature under Article V, Section 1, of the Texas Constitution, including county courts at law, statutory probate courts, county criminal courts, county criminal courts of appeals, and county civil courts at law. (Sec. 21.009, V.T.C.A. Government Code [Ch. 2, Sec. 1601(18), 71st Legislature (1989)])

(16) "County Judge" means the judge of the county court created in each county by Article V, Section 15, of the Texas Constitution. (Sec. 21.009, V.T.C.A. Government Code [Ch. 2, Sec. 1601(18), 71st Legislature (1989)])

(17) "Part-time" means service on a continuing or periodic basis, but with permission by law to devote time to some other profession or occupation and for which the compensation for that reason is less than that for full-time service.

(18) "Judge Pro Tempore" means a person who is appointed to act temporarily as a judge.

*The 1996 amendment deleted B(7), which had defined "Invidious discrimination", and renumbered B(8) as B(7).