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Code of Judicial Conduct Table of Contents




Rule 38. Code of Judicial Conduct


[1] An independent, fair and impartial judiciary is indispensable to our system of justice. The United States legal system is based upon the principle that an independent, impartial, and competent judiciary, composed of men and women of integrity, will interpret and apply the law that governs our society. Thus, the judiciary plays a central role in preserving the principles of justice and the rule of law. Inherent in all the Rules contained in this Code are the precepts that judges, individually and collectively, must respect and honor the judicial office as a public trust and strive to maintain and enhance confidence in the legal system.

 [2] Judges should maintain the dignity of judicial office at all times, and avoid both impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in their professional and personal lives. They should aspire at all times to conduct that ensures the greatest possible public confidence in their independence, impartiality, integrity, and competence.

 [3] The Code of Judicial Conduct establishes standards for the ethical conduct of judges and judicial candidates. It is not intended as an exhaustive guide for the conduct of judges and judicial candidates, who are governed in their judicial and personal conduct by general ethical standards as well as by the Code. The Code is intended, however, to provide guidance and assist judges in maintaining the highest standards of judicial and personal conduct, and to provide a basis for regulating their conduct through disciplinary agencies.


[1] The Code of Judicial Conduct consists of four Canons, numbered Rules under each Canon, and Comments that generally follow and explain each Rule. Scope and Terminology sections provide additional guidance in interpreting and applying the Code. An Application section establishes when the various Rules apply to a judge or judicial candidate.

[2] The Canons state overarching principles of judicial ethics that all judges must observe.  Although a judge may be disciplined only for violating a Rule, the Canons provide important guidance in interpreting the Rules. Where a Rule contains a permissive term, such as “may” or “should,” the conduct being addressed is committed to the personal and professional discretion of the judge or candidate in question, and no disciplinary action should be taken for action or inaction within the bounds of such discretion. 

[3] The Comments that accompany the Rules serve two functions. First, they provide guidance regarding the purpose, meaning, and proper application of the Rules. They contain explanatory material and, in some instances, provide examples of permitted or prohibited conduct. Comments neither add to nor subtract from the binding obligations set forth in the Rules. Therefore, when a Comment contains the term “must,” it does not mean that the Comment itself is binding or enforceable; it signifies that the Rule in question, properly understood, is obligatory as to the conduct at issue.

[4] Second, the Comments identify aspirational goals for judges. To implement fully the principles of this Code as articulated in the Canons, judges should strive to exceed the standards of conduct established by the Rules, holding themselves to the highest ethical standards and seeking to achieve those aspirational goals, thereby enhancing the dignity of the judicial office.

[5] The Rules of the Code of Judicial Conduct are rules of reason that should be applied consistent with constitutional requirements, statutes, other court rules, and decisional law, and with due regard for all relevant circumstances. The Rules should not be interpreted to impinge upon the essential independence of judges in making judicial decisions.

[6] Although the black letter of the Rules is binding and enforceable, it is not contemplated that every transgression will result in the imposition of discipline. Whether discipline should be imposed should be determined through a reasonable and reasoned application of the Rules, and should depend upon factors such as the seriousness of the transgression, the facts and circumstances that existed at the time of the transgression, the extent of any pattern of improper activity, whether there have been previous violations, and the effect of the improper activity upon the judicial system or others.

[7] The Code is not designed or intended as a basis for civil or criminal liability. Neither is it intended to be the basis for litigants to seek collateral remedies against each other or to obtain tactical advantages in proceedings before a court.


“Appropriate authority” means the authority having responsibility for initiation of disciplinary process in connection with the violation to be reported.

Compensationdenotes remuneration for personal services.

“Contribution” means both financial and in-kind contributions, such as goods, professional or volunteer services, advertising, and other types of assistance, which, if obtained by the recipient otherwise, would require a financial expenditure.

“Court personnel” does not include the lawyers in a proceeding before a judge.

“De minimis,” in the context of interests pertaining to disqualification of a judge, means an insignificant interest that could not raise a reasonable question regarding the judge’s impartiality.

“Domestic partner” means a person with whom another person maintains a household and an intimate relationship, other than a person to whom he or she is legally married, but including parties who have entered into a civil union.

“Economic interest” means ownership of more than a de minimis legal or equitable interest. Except for situations in which the judge participates in the management of such a legal or equitable interest, or the interest could be substantially affected by the outcome of a proceeding before a judge, it does not include:

(1) an interest in the individual holdings within a mutual or common investment fund;

(2) an interest in securities held by an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization in which the judge or the judge’s spouse, domestic partner, parent, or child serves as a director, an officer, an advisor, or other participant;

(3) a deposit in a financial institution or deposits or proprietary interests the judge may maintain as a member of a mutual savings association or credit union, or similar proprietary interests; or

(4) an interest in the issuer of government securities held by the judge.

“Fiduciary” includes relationships such as executor, administrator, trustee, or guardian.

“Impartial,” “impartiality,” and “impartially” mean absence of bias or prejudice in favor of, or against, particular parties or classes of parties, as well as maintenance of an open mind in considering issues that may come before a judge.

“Impending matter” is a matter that is imminent or expected to occur in the near future.

“Impropriety” includes conduct that violates the law, court rules, or provisions of this Code, and conduct that undermines a judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality.

“Independence” means a judge’s freedom from influence or controls other than those established by law.

“Integrity” means probity, fairness, honesty, uprightness, and soundness of character.

“Judge” includes the following members of the State of New Hampshire Judicial Branch:  (1) a full-time or part-time judge of any court or division; (2) a full-time or part-time marital master; (3) a referee or other master; and (4) when performing an adjudicatory function, a clerk of court or deputy clerk, including a register of probate or deputy register, and any person performing the duties of a clerk or register on an interim basis.  Not everyone who is a “judge” as defined herein is bound by every canon of the Code of Judicial Conduct- the Code of Judicial Conduct applies to a judge to the extent provided in Supreme Court Rule 38.

“Judicial candidate” means any person, who has been nominated for judicial office.

“Knowingly,” “knowledge,” “known,” and “knows” mean actual knowledge of the fact in question. A person’s knowledge may be inferred from circumstances.

“Law” encompasses court rules as well as statutes, constitutional provisions, and decisional law.

“Member of the candidate’s family” means a spouse, domestic partner, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, or other relative or person with whom the candidate maintains a close familial relationship.

“Member of the judge’s family” means a spouse, domestic partner, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, or other relative or person with whom the judge maintains a close familial relationship.

“Member of a judge’s family 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 in the judge’s household.

“Nonpublic information” means information that is not available to the public. Nonpublic information may include, but is not limited to, information that is sealed by statute or court order or impounded or communicated in camera, and information offered in grand jury proceedings, presentencing reports, dependency cases, or psychiatric reports.

“Part time judge” is a judge who serves on a continuing or periodic basis but is permitted by law to devote time to some other profession or occupation and whose compensation for that reason is less than that of a full time judge.

“Pending matter” is a matter that has commenced. A matter continues to be pending through any appellate process until final disposition.

“Political organization” means a political party or other group sponsored by or affiliated with a political party or candidate, the principal purpose of which is to further the election or appointment of candidates for political office.

“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.

“Third degree of relationship” includes the following persons: great-grandparent, grandparent, parent, uncle, aunt, brother, sister, child, grandchild, great-grandchild, nephew, and niece.


A.  Anyone, whether or not a lawyer, who is an officer of a judicial system and who performs adjudicatory functions, including an officer such as a magistrate, marital master, special master or referee, is treated as a judge within the meaning of this Code. All judges shall comply with this Code except as provided below.

B.  All retired judges who have elected to take senior active status or who wish to serve as judicial referees or temporary justices of the supreme court shall comply with the provisions of this Code governing part time judges, except that they shall also comply with the provisions of Rule 3.9 if they wish to serve as a private mediator or arbitrator for compensation. A retired judge who does not take senior active status and who does not desire to serve as a judicial referee or a temporary justice of the supreme court is not subject to Rule 3.9 of this Code.

C.  Part time Judge.  A part time judge:

      (1) is not required to comply

    (a) except while serving as a judge, with Rule 2.10(A);

    (b) at any time, with Rules 3.1(B), 3.4, 3.7(A)(6), 3.8, 3.9, 3.10, 3.11(B), 3.11(C), 3.13(A), 3.14 and 3.15;

    (c) at any time, with Rule 3.2 but only to the extent that it prohibits appearances before administrative bodies in adjudicatory proceedings; otherwise, a part time judge shall comply with Rule 3.2.

(2) shall not practice law in the court on which the judge serves, in any other court of the same level (e.g., a part time district court judge shall not practice law in any other district court), any court subject to the appellate jurisdiction of the court on which the judge serves, and shall not act as a lawyer in a proceeding in which the judge has served as a judge or in any other proceeding related thereto.

(3) may serve as counsel to the town wherein the judge’s court is located or a town within the judicial district of the judge’s court, provided that:

(a) the judge may give no advice to the police of such town and may give no advice to any other officer or employee of the town that could reasonably be expected to influence the exercise of discretion by the police in the performance of their duties;

(b) the judge may give no advice to any officer or employee of the town on a matter that could reasonably be expected to be the subject of any action or suit before the judge’s court; and

(c) the judge shall recuse him or herself from sitting as judge on any case in which the judge’s advice to the town is directly called into question or in which a ruling could directly affect the interests of the town.

      (4) Notwithstanding anything above to the contrary, a part time marital master shall be governed by all of the canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct as provided in Superior Court Administrative Rule 12-7.

D.  Clerks, Deputy Clerks, Registers of Probate, Deputy Registers of Probate, any persons performing the duties of a Clerk or Register, shall comply with Rules 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.5, 2.8, 2.10, 2.12, 2.15, and 2.16.

E.  Time for Compliance.  A person to whom this Code becomes applicable shall comply immediately with all provisions of this Code except Sections 4D(2), 4D(3), and 4E, and shall comply with these sections as soon as reasonably possible and shall do so in any event within the period of one year.


[1] When a person who has been a part time judge is no longer a part time judge (no longer accepts appointments), that person may act as a lawyer in a proceeding in which he or she has served as a judge or in any other proceeding related thereto only with the express consent of all parties pursuant to Rule 1.12(a) of the N.H. Rules of Professional Conduct.

[2] If serving as a fiduciary when selected as a judge, a new judge may, notwithstanding the prohibitions in Section 4E, continue to serve as fiduciary but only for that period of time necessary to avoid serious adverse consequences to the beneficiary of the fiduciary relationship and in no event longer than one year. Similarly, if engaged at the time of judicial selection in a business activity, a new judge may, notwithstanding the prohibitions in Section 4D(3), continue in that activity for a reasonable period but in no event longer than one year.

[3]  In recent years many jurisdictions have created what are often called “problem solving” courts, in which judges are authorized to act in nontraditional ways.  For example, judges presiding in drug courts and monitoring the progress of participants in those courts’ programs may be authorized and even encouraged to communicate directly with social workers, probation officers, and others outside the context of their usual role as independent decision makers on issues of fact and law.  When local practices and/or protocols specifically authorize conduct not otherwise permitted under these Rules, they take precedence over the provisions set forth in the Code.  Nevertheless, judges serving on “problem solving” courts shall comply with this Code except to the extent local practices and/or protocols provide and permit otherwise.

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