Can I talk to the Judge?
Talking to a judge outside a formal court proceedings about a case is called ex parte communications, and it is not allowed. It does not matter whether or not you are a party to a case or a member of the public who has an interest in a particular case. Ex parte is a Latin phrase meaning, "on one side only; by or for one party; one side of a controversy."
However, that does not mean you may never talk to a judge! Judges are lawyers. Lawyers, and judges, are just regular people who work in the legal profession. They could be your next door neighbor or standing behind you at the grocery store. If you want to say hello to a judge, chat with him or her about the weather, or even gripe about your common problems with local road construction delays–it would be no different than talking to anyone else you might know. But it is different if you want to talk to a judge about a legal issue or about a pending court case in which a judge is presiding. When a lawyer becomes a judge, he or she must follow a Code of Judicial Conduct. Outside formal court proceedings, individual people may not ask a judge for legal advice about a case nor even discuss a case in general terms if the judge will have to ultimately make the final decision about the outcome of the case.
Think of it this way–Would you want a judge to talk to anyone else about your case, especially to someone on the opposite side, without you present or even knowing about it? Probably not! So although you are not permitted to tell the judge your version of the story, neither is anyone else permitted to tell the judge their version of the story or express an opinion about which side should win the case. This ban includes persons who are not parties, including your family, friends, pastors, teachers, counselors, state senators, or doctors. In the interest of fairness to all persons involved in a case and court proceedings, no person or party may directly communicate with a presiding judge in any case pending before the Court outside of an official hearing or other court proceeding.
Courts are a part of the judicial branch, one of three independent branches of our system of government. Judges apply the laws to controversies brought before the Court. The most basic function of the judicial branch is the public administration of justice and this is achieved through impartial judges. One way a judge remains impartial is that he or she must not be involved in the controversies which that judge will ultimately decide. This requirement of "no involvement" extends to court personnel working directly for the judge. Therefore, neither judges nor the professional or administrative court personnel may talk about or provide legal/procedural advise to parties regarding cases pending before the Court. More importantly, you should remember that any information you might receive outside of a legal proceeding from court personnel is just that, information. It is not the "law." It is not legal advice given in your best interest nor is it given in the best interest of any other person or party either. A judge’s staff works for the judge, not the attorneys and not the parties.
Court personnel strive to give out the best, most accurate and factual information possible. They do not purposefully give out misleading information. Court personnel want to be as helpful as possible, but how much help they can give is limited. They may not talk about certain types of cases such as juvenile delinquency cases; adoption cases; cases involving child abuse, sexual assault or neglect; and certain other cases which are deemed confidential under the law. Court personnel are not allowed to give suggestions or advice to you about any kind of legal questions–for any reason–regardless of whether or not you are represented by an attorney. All these restrictions are meant to protect the integrity of the legal system, the public trust in the court system, and the rights of the parties involved in controversies before the court.
If a person wants to assert his or her legal rights and properly present certain concerns about a case to the Court for a judge’s final determination, the best way is through an attorney who represents that person. An attorney hired by you has a professional responsibility to zealously represent and advocate your best interests at all times.