These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
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19-Judge Conflicts

Judges may independently research background information and may "judicially notice" facts under court rules, but may not independently investigate material facts involved in their adjudicative function. "The key inquiry here is whether the information to be gathered is of factual consequence in determining the case. If it is, it must be subject to testing through the adversary process." "[E]ven general subject-area research is not permissible . . . if the judge is acquiring information to make an adjudicative decision of material fact." Judges may not investigate through online research (or otherwise) information about jurors or parties, but may investigate lawyers -- unless the investigation "is done to affect the judge's weighing or considering adjudicative facts."

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn