1994-08: Response to Criticism of Court's Philosophy

Opinion No. 94-8

April 21, 1994

TOPIC: A judge responding publicly to criticism of court philosophy

DIGEST: Judges may speak out to clarify the court's philosophy of the law or procedures in the area of domestic violence.

REFERENCES: Illinois Supreme Court Rule 63A(6) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 63 (145 Ill.2d R.63) and Illinois Supreme Court Rule 64A of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 64 (145 Ill.2d R.64)

FACTS

Defendant was charged with unlawful restraint in that he held his wife hostage at gunpoint for two hours. He was finally talked out of it. The defendant pleaded guilty and at the sentencing, the judge commented that this was not a criminal offense and should be in Divorce Court. Further, in response to the State's Attorney's argument that it was a crime for a husband to point a gun at his wife's head and threaten her, the Judge said that that is the way things are in these domestic matters.

In response to a public outcry, the other five judges want to make a public statement that they do not accept the outdated approach to domestic violence situations. The legislature and the courts have found these to be crimes and they wish to assure all that they are strongly behind these laws.

QUESTION

Is it permissible for the Chief Judge and other judges of the circuit to issue this type of a statement now that the case is concluded?

OPINION

Illinois Supreme Court Rule 63A(6) states: "A judge should abstain from public comment about a pending or impending proceeding in any court... This subsection does not prohibit judges from making public statements in the course of their official duties or from explaining for public information the procedures of the court." The statements in this inquiry fall within the second sentence and are permitted. Illinois Supreme Court Rule 64A affirmatively provides that a judge may speak or write on activities concerning the law, the legal system and the administration of justice.