JUDGE AND POLITICAL ACTIVITIES

  OpinionNo. 235 (1998)


FACTS: A person serving as President of a County Women's Political Caucus and who also serves as the Mayor's appointee and Chair of the Mayor's Commission on the Status of Women will soon be appointed as a part-time Master over the Mental Health cases for a County Court at Law and a Probate Court for the county where she resides. It is anticipated that the Master will preside over hearings two or three days a month.

QUESTION: Is it a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct for a Master over mental health cases in a statutory county court to 1) remain as president of a county women's political caucus; and/or 2) remain as Chair of the Mayor's Commission on the Status of Women?

ANSWER: No, as to both positions. Under-Canon 6D(l), a part-time master of a statutory county court is required to comply with all provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct except, among others, Canon 4H. This exception would permit a part-time master to serve as an appointee to a commission even if it is concerned with issues of fact or policy on matters other than improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice. 

There is no direct prohibition in the Code, of Judicial Conduct regarding service as president of an organization such as a county woman's political caucus, as long as the master does not authorize the public use of her name endorsing another candidate for any public office under Canon 5(3) or solicit funds under Canon 4C(2). Additionally, the master must conduct her extrajudicial activities so they do not cast reasonable doubt on her ability to act impartially as a master or interfere with the proper performance of her judicial duties under Canon 4A(l) and (2).