GOOD FAITH INTERPRETATION OF LAW

Opinion No. 90 (1987)


QUESTION: Is a judge's good faith but incorrect interpretation of the law a violation of either Canon 2A ("A judge should respect and comply with the law and should at all times conduct himself [or herself]...in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary") or Canon 3A(1) ("A judge should be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence in it")?

PREFACE: The Committee has been advised by the judge who submitted this question that he has received a public reprimand from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct for violations of Canon 2A and 3A(1) because:

a. that in a number of criminal cases presided over by..., the judge ordered a sentence to begin at a time earlier than the date on which the sentence was pronounced...in at least one instance, the sentence was ordered to begin even prior to the time the offense was committed.

ANSWER: The function of the Judicial Ethics Committee is to write advisory opinions in answer to questions involving potential violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Where a ruling on the actions of the judge has been rendered by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, the Committee considers the request for an advisory opinion to be untimely and beyond the scope of the function of the committee.

The Committee observes that the issue of the judge's "good faith" appears to have been considered and resolved by the Commission on Judicial Conduct.
The Committee respectfully declines to write an opinion on the posed question.