Opinion No. 68 (1983)

QUESTION: Would judges who participate in a central jury system violate the Code of Judicial Conduct by sending a form letter expressing their appreciation to those persons who reported for jury duty, including those not selected as jurors? The letterhead would contain all the names of the judges in the system and the names of the District and County clerks. Costs would be borne by the county.

ANSWER: Your Ethics Committee is of the opinion that if the contents of the letter is a genuine expression of appreciation, the letter is mailed routinely when the panel is discharged, and the signatory privileges are rotated regularly, that such a letter would be appropriate. Canon 3A(3) requires a judge to be courteous to jurors. Canon 2 requires that a judge avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of his activities, and Canon 7A* requires that any candidate for judicial office, including an incumbent judge, should refrain from conduct which might tend to arouse reasonable belief that he is using the power or prestige of his judicial position to promote his own candidacy. If the content and timing of mailing the letter of appreciation meet the criteria of these three canons the letter would be appropriate.

The Committee sees no impropriety in the county bearing the costs of such a letter, if the costs do not become prohibitive. Consideration might be given to attaching such a letter to each panel member's check when mailed.

*Canon 7A was amended effective June 26, 1990.