Opinion No. 120 (1988)*

QUESTION: Is it ethical for a district judge to mediate civil cases in order to expedite the settlement process?

ANSWER: The committee is of the opinion that a district judge may not mediate civil cases. Canon 3A(5) states "A judge...shall not directly or indirectly initiate, permit, nor consider ex parte or other communications concerning the merits of a pending or impending judicial proceeding." (Emphasis added.) Furthermore,
Canon 5E of the Code of Judicial Conduct states, "A judge should not act as an arbitrator or mediator." Canon 8 makes Canon 5E applicable to district judges. However, Canon 8 also lists other classifications of judges who are exempt from compliance with 5E.

*Canons 3A(5) and 5E were amended effective December 19, 1989.