January 28, 1988
Topic: Acceptance by a county judge and surrogate of a position as a director of a church-related halfway house program.
Digest: A judge may engage in activities to improve the law and in civic and charitable activities, provided the activities do not interfere with impartiality or involve the judge in fundraising activities.
Rules: Canons 3, 4 and 5 of the Code of Judicial Conduct and section 100.3, 100.4 and 100.5 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts.
A judge from a rural county, who is a county judge and surrogate, asks whether he can accept an appointment as director of a halfway house program now being established under church auspices. The judge is an active member of the church. The program would benefit inmates from correctional facilities who are released and have no place to go other than their former crime-oriented environment. The judge points out that some persons released have been sentenced to state institutions from his court. The judge cites section 100.5(b) of the Chief Administrator's rules but does not believe his participation as a director would reflect adversely upon his impartiality or interfere with his judicial duties. He would not be involved in any way in the solicitation of funds.
Canon 5B of the Code of Judicial Conduct states:
B. Civic and charitable activities. A judge may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon his impartiality or interfere with the performance of his judicial duties. A judge-may serve as an officer, director, trustee, or nonlegal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization not conducted for the economic or political advantage of its members...
In the event that the judge feels, in any particular case, that his impartiality might be questioned, the judge can seek guidance in Canon 3, particularly paragraph C, and in Judicial Conduct rule 100.3(c) of the Chief Administrator, governing disqualifications. The Committee recognizes that the judge is both county judge and surrogate and may have difficulty in easily effecting a substitution upon his disqualification. However, that is a relatively small price to pay for the obvious good service the judge can render to the community he serves.
The Committee concludes, therefore, that the judge may engage in this activity, provided that he does not engage in fund-raising activities.
This Opinion is advisory only and is not binding upon either the Office of Court Administration or the Commission on Judicial Conduct.