2013-16 (April 19, 2013)
Rules 1.2, 1.3, 3.1 & 3.7
May a Judicial Official serve as an officer, director or section leader for the Connecticut Bar Association (“CBA”)? The CBA is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting public service and advancing the principles of law and justice.
Response: Rule 1.2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct states that a judge “should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the … impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety. The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge violated this Code or engaged in other conduct that reflects adversely on the judge’s honesty, impartiality, temperament, or fitness to serve as a judge.”
Rule 1.3 of the Code provides that a judge “shall not use or attempt to use the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others or allow others to do so.”
Rule 3.1 of the Code provides that subject to certain conditions a judge “may engage in extrajudicial activities except as prohibited by law.” When engaging in extrajudicial activities, a judge shall not participate in activities that (1) will interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties, (2) will lead to frequent disqualification, (3) would appear to a reasonable person to undermine the judge’s independence, integrity or impartiality, or (4) engage in conduct that would appear to a reasonable person to be coercive.
Similarly, Rule 3.7(a) provides that a judge “may participate in activities sponsored by organizations or governmental entities concerned with the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice… including,…(6) serving as an officer, director, trustee, or nonlegal advisor of such an organization or entity, unless it is likely that the organization or entity: (A) will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the judge; or (B) will frequently be engaged in adversary proceedings in the court of which the judge is a member or in any court subject to the appellate jurisdiction of the court of which the judge is a member.” The rule’s commentary states that “[e]ven for law related organizations, a judge should consider whether the membership and purposes of the organization, or the nature of the judge’s participation in or association with the organization, would conflict with the judge’s obligation to refrain from activities that reflect adversely on a judge’s independence, integrity, and impartiality.” Rule 3.7, cmt. (2).
Based upon the information provided, including that the CBA comments and takes public positions on legislation, engages in issue advocacy, including issues that directly impact the judiciary, sometimes files amicus curiae briefs and further that people in leadership positions customarily solicit opinions from and/or attempt to persuade CBA members concerning various matters, a majority of the Committee (with one member dissenting) determined that, although membership in the CBA is permissible, serving as an as an officer, director or section leader for the CBA would violate Rules 1.2, 1.3, 3.1 and 3.7.