Opinion No. 228 (1998)

QUESTION: May a justice of the peace serve as a member of the board of directors of a water supply corporation if the customers are located in the justice's precinct?

ANSWER: No. For a justice of the peace to serve as a director under such circumstances would be a violation of Canon 4D(l). This provides that "a judge shall refrain from financial and business dealings that tend to reflect adversely on the judge's impartiality, interfere with the proper performance of the judicial duties, exploit his or her judicial position, or involve the judge in frequent transactions with lawyers or persons likely to come before the court on which the judge serves." A director of a corporation occupies a position of a fiduciary toward the corporation for its shareholders. A justice of the peace accepting such director's position could be involved in financial and business dealings which would tend to reflect adversely on his impartiality as a judge, and he could be involved in frequent transactions with persons that would likely be before him in court.

For a justice of the peace to so serve as director would also be violate of Canon 4A(l), which provides that "a judge shall conduct all of the judge's extra-judicial activities so that they do not cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge."

It should be noted that Canon 4D(2) does not apply here because the judge asking the question is a justice of the peace. See Canon 6C(l)(b).