PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES OF ORGANIZATIONS

Opinion No. 158 (1993)


QUESTION NO. 1: Can a judge serve as a District Chairman or District Commissioner of a local Boy Scouts of America organization which denies homosexuals and persons without religious principles from serving as leaders?

QUESTION NO. 2: Can a judge be a member of the Knights of Columbus organization whose principles are against abortion?

ANSWER: Yes to both Question 1 and Question 2. Canon 5B clearly allows for a judge to be a District Chairman or District Commissioner in an organization such as the Boy Scouts of America or a member of religious, charitable and fraternal organizations such as the Knights of Columbus. Such leadership or membership is subject to the prohibition against soliciting funds found in Canon 5B (2), giving investment advice in Canon 5B (3).

With respect to serving as a District Chairman or District Commissioner in the Boy Scouts of America, the judge should be aware of Canon 5B (1) which states: "A judge should not serve if it is likely that the organization will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before him or her or will be regularly or frequently engaged in adversary proceedings in any court." An organization as large as the Boy Scouts of America may be involved in adversary proceedings anywhere throughout the country. The determination of whether the Boy Scouts of America will be "regularly" or "frequently" engaged in adversary proceedings must be made by the individual judge.

Both questions go further inasmuch as it is the principles and practices of the respective organizations which cause the judge to question the propriety of his involvement either as a District Chairman or District Commissioner of a local Boy Scouts of America organization or as a member of the Knights of Columbus. The respective principles and practices in and of themselves do not prohibit a judge from serving as a leader or being member. However, in light of the controversy surrounding these issues the judge should consider Canon 2A before deciding how involved to become with any organization. Canon 2A provides that a judge should conduct himself or herself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Most organizations have principles and policies with which others disagree. For example, Canon 7(3) allows a judge to support a political party, attend political events, and in accordance with Canons 7 and 3A(8), express views on political matters. Such associations are allowed even though political parties express, in their platforms and elsewhere, their views on the same and similar subjects. A judge's membership does not necessarily diminish the public's confidence in the character of the judiciary.