Crossing the Ethical Line in Problem-Solving Courts

Peggy Fulton Hora1

1 Superior Court of California (Ret.) PO Box 5246, Walnut Creek CA 94596 peggyhora@sbcglobal.net

Canons of Ethics for judges and ethical rules for lawyers are based on an adversarial system.  Concepts such as a ban on ex parte communication are necessary and foundational in traditional courts but do they work in problem-solving courts?  If not, how do we assure that a litigant’s case is being handled fairly?  One of the hallmarks of problem-solving courts is the relationship and direct communication between the judge and a treatment court participant.  What are the dangers in such communications and how can we avoid them?

This presentation will rely on real-life ethical situations in which judges have acted outside their traditional role with critical consequences.  In the United States, drug court judges have been removed from office or forced to resign because of these breaches.  Some judges have been publicly reprimanded for their actions, however well intentioned, in problem-solving courts. We will examine the ethical rules, reasons for them and how, if in any way, they need to change for application in problem-solving courts.

Biography:

Judge Hora spent over 20 years on the bench in California.  She is an international leader in the solution-focused courts movement and has written comprehensively on justice issues.  She was a 2009-2010 Thinker in Residence appointed by the Premier of South Australia to study and make recommendations on the Australian justice system.  She was a visiting scholar at the University of Tasmania School of Law.

Her international work includes speaking at conferences worldwide and hands-on training on drug courts and therapeutic jurisprudence in Israel, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Chile, Bermuda, South Africa, Italy, Pakistan, France, Japan, Russia, The Netherlands, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

She is a recipient of the Bernard S. Jefferson Judicial Education Award from the California Judges’ Association and winner of the Rose Bird Award from California Women Lawyers.  She was honored as Woman of the Year by the California legislature.

About the Association

The Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration (AIJA) is a research and educational institute associated with Monash University. It is funded by the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council (LCCSC) and also from subscription income from its membership.

The principal objectives of the Institute include research into judicial administration and the development and conduct of educational programmes for judicial officers, court administrators and members of the legal profession in relation to court administration and judicial systems.

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