COUNTY JUDGE -- SERVICE IN ORGANIZATIONS

Opinion No. 113 (1988)


QUESTION: Would it be a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct for a constitutional county judge to serve as a director or member of the following type organizations?
1. A metropolitan transportation organization that reviews and develops transportation needs for the county and cities in the county in which the judge is the county judge. Service is voluntary.
2. A tax increment financing district that oversees the development of public work projects and contracts for such projects in a city in the judge's county. Service is voluntary.
3. A regional planning commission, established by state law, for the development of cooperation between cities, counties, and other governmental entities in the region. Further, to discourage duplication of service in the region. Service and governmental membership is voluntary.

ANSWER: The Code of Judicial Conduct, as amended December 16, 1987, recognized the fact that constitutional county judges have a dual status: (1) their administrative capacity as head of their county governments, and (2) their judiciary capacity as judges of their constitutional county courts. Thus, where Canon 5G prohibits most judges from accepting appointments to most governmental committees or commissions, Canon 8C(1) provides an exception that permits constitutional county judges who perform judicial functions the right to engage in duties which relate to the judge's role in the administration of county affairs, regardless of other Code restrictions. In addition, the Code in Canon 8C(2) makes Canon 5G not applicable to constitutional county judges.

The committee is of the opinion that a constitutional county judge may be a member or director of the three described organizations, and that such activity is not a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct provided compliance with other provisions of the Code are met, i.e. (1) such activities do not interfere with his or her judicial duties [Canon 5B]; (2) investment advise is not given to the organization by the judge [Canon 5B3]; (3) the organization does not engage in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the judge, in his judicial capacity, or will be regularly or frequently engaged in adversary proceedings in any court [Canon 5(1)].