Opinion No. 178 (1995)

QUESTIONS: 1. May a judge of a court of appeals maintain a part-time office at a state law school where a portion of his judicial duties would be performed? The office would be provided without charge, and the judge would be an occasional guest lecturer at the law school.

2. If the judge may maintain such an office, would he be required to disqualify or recuse himself from any appeal involving the university?

3. Does the Code require that a judge perform judicial duties exclusively at the place where the court of appeals sits?

1. Yes, subject to certain qualifications.  Canon 4d(4)(c) provides that a judge shall not accept a gift from anyone and lists certain exceptions. The pertinent exception provides that a judge may accept "any other gift," which means a gift not specifically prohibited in the Code, "only if the donor is not a part or person whose interests have come or are likely to come before the judge; ...." If the university's interests have not come and are not likely to come before the judge, the judge could accept the gift of a free part-time office without violating that provision. If, on the other had, the university has interests that have come or are likely to come before the judge, the judge should not accept the gift of a free office.

Canon 3B.(11) provides, "The discussions, votes, positions taken, and writings of appellate judges and court personnel about causes are confidences of the court and shall be revealed only through a court's judgment, a written opinion, or in accordance with Supreme Court guidelines for a court approved history project." Performing an appellate judge's duties outside of the court's offices creates a risk that confidences of the court will be lost. The affirmative answer to this question assumes that the judge could conduct his research, writing , and oral communications at the part-time office in a way that would preserve the confidences of the court. If that is not the case, the judge should not perform judicial duties in such a location.

2. Questions of disqualification and recusal are not governed by the Code of Judicial Conduct. They are controlled by Tex. R. Civ. P. 18b and Tex. R. App. P. 15a. The Judicial Ethics Committee does not issue advisory opinions on questions of law.

3. The Code does not mention this issue, but Canon 2A provides that a judge shall comply with the law. Therefore, the judge is required to comply with any statute on this subject.