Five Canons of Judicial Ethical Conduct. Essay Example

Published: 2023-08-29
Five Canons of Judicial Ethical Conduct. Essay Example
Essay type:  Reflective essays
Categories:  Court system Judicial system Ethics
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1151 words
10 min read

Having an idea of the codes of conduct for the judicial organs is essential. This study will use three concepts, namely: relativism, legal moralism, and ethical universalism, to discuss how the judge's questionable activities can be handled on various occasions.

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Moral Relativism

The principle of moral relativism in ethics understands that the view on morality often varies from one society or culture to another (Gowans, 2004). For instance, physical punishment of children who have engaged in daily mistakes is prohibited in Canada, while most nations consider the practice as moral (Gowans, 2004). In other words, relativism states that judicial codes of conduct of the questionable activities by judges must be considered as moral or immoral based on their societal or cultural beliefs and laws.

For instance, canon laws in the USA do not allow judges to publicly endorse politicians because judicial judges are considered as the eyes of the citizens (Lievense & Cohn, 2007). However, relativism concept may allow judges to publicly endorse politicians in some countries, who guarantees freedom to everyone without exception. Besides, relativism may allow or prohibit judges from performing directing roles of the overall judicial system. The variation comes in because of the differences in the canon laws between countries that specify the functions of judges. Similarly, depending on how cultural or societal requirements defines the roles by judges, the policy may vary from place to place, to allow judges to shut down courts. Also, the decision depends on the conditions as speculated in the codes of conduct for different countries. The concept can also allow a judge to take kickbacks, as long as there are no policies that prohibit the act in the location or region or its occurrence. Lastly, since the vital concept of moral relativism depends from one culture/community/country/society or sector to another, judges may have the authority to ban defense attorneys or make individual suggestions on the court sessions, based on what one culture defines to be moral or immoral to their standards canon law.

Legal Moralism

Judge's activities may also be evaluated using the principle of legal moralism. The main idea here is that events may be legalized or illegalized, depending on their immorality (Scoccia, 2013). However, it continues to state that immortality can only be sanctioned if its outcome is not harmful to anyone (Scoccia, 2013). Therefore, a consequence of a judicial activity should be able to pose happiness to the rest of the parties involved, for it to be granted as moral.

Having said, legal moralism does not allow a judge to engage in public endorsing, because, the practice diminishes the public confidence. Judges must, therefore, remain neutral during politics to prevent the loss of public trust that is a negative outcome. Again, judges can direct judicial practices if the aim is to align everything with the acceptable codes of conduct. However, they will not be allowed to direct certain activities if the outcome to the citizens or the overall judicial system is not morally acceptable by the majority. Judges may also shut down courts if their decisions are governed with positive interests that are moral. It, therefore, means that they have to follow strict laws and policies to ensure that no one is harmed during the closure. Taking kickbacks should be considered immoral, based on the principle of legal moralism. It is because final court decisions that involve kickbacks usually have rulings in favor of criminals and out of support for the innocent people. Judges must use the stated procedures in their code of conduct to have correct decrees, that poses no harm, such as stress and depression to one party. On banning defensive attorneys, judges should be allowed to do so, if the lawyers fail to abide with the court guidelines and rules, or if they intentionally show signs of manipulating with the case ruling. However, a well-behaving lawyer, who is following all the laws to make his/her point should not be banned, because the points made could be the basis of making a just and moral decision. Lastly, legal moralism allows judges to give suggestions, only if they intend to contribute positively to the judicial activities. The suggested ideas should not show any sign of leading to an immoral act that harms another party.

Ethical Universalism

The concept states that ethical principles, rights, and virtues must be for everyone at the same level, inconsiderate of differences in race, color, gender, sex, age, etc. (Gewirth, 1988). Therefore, like other citizens or organs of the government, judges must follow the ethical principles to ensure that their acts are moral and acceptable.

First, judges must not engage in public endorsing because every citizen or politician is liable to fairness. Engaging in politics might tamper with public confidence. Secondly. Judges should direct activities as they are the leaders of the judicial systems. Hebrews 13:17 instructs subjects that "obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls." It is thus universally accepted for leaders to direct activities over their subjects. Thirdly, the judge might shut down a court, only if the decision follows the existing international laws governing the process. Fourthly, The Global Judicial Integrity Network states that no judge should be bribed to influence the outcome of the court rulings (Paust & Bassiouni, 2000). Therefore, ethical universalism does not allow judges to take kickbacks. Also, the International Crimes Act by the International Criminal Court highlights that judges can ban lawyers on particular occasions when a lawyer does not meet the criterion of making a presentation (Paust & Bassiouni, 2000). Finally, the same ICA from the ICC databases of codes of conduct, allows judges to make suggestions as long as they do not intend to tamper with the overall morality or the outcome (Paust & Bassiouni, 2000).


From the discussion, it was evident that legal moralism coincided with the principle of ethical universalism to a greater extent. Typically, the two concepts aim to govern the activities by judges in the judicial settings based on the idea that the outcome should be morally upright and satisfactory to everyone. However, this deviates from the main idea as it is stipulated by the relativism, which outlines that activity by the judge may be deemed as moral or immoral depending on the setting or location. In one way or the other, the outcome of this concept may be unethical and harmful to some individuals. Meanwhile, all three theories, at one point, controls the major questionable activities by judges, using a moral and logical understanding.


Gewirth, A. (1988). Ethical universalism and particularism. The Journal of Philosophy, 85(6), 283-302.

Gowans, C. (2004). Moral relativism.

Lievense, A. J., & Cohn, A. (2007). The Federal Judiciary and the ABA Model Code: The Parting of the Ways. Justice System Journal, 28(3), 271-282.

Paust, J., & Bassiouni, M. (2000). International Criminal Law: Cases and Materials.

Scoccia, D. (2013). In Defense of “Pure” Legal Moralism. Criminal Law and Philosophy, 7(3), 513-530.

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