2013-07 (Emergency Staff Opinion issued March 4, 2013)
Extrajudicial Activities; Social Activities
Rules 1.2 & 3.1
A Judicial Official’s spouse is organizing a social outing with the spouse’s former co-worker and close friend. The spouse and his/her friend plan to invite several couples to a concert. Although one person will be placing the ticket order for the group, everyone will be paying their own way. The former co-worker’s spouse is a named partner in a well-known foreclosure firm. The Judicial Official sits on the foreclosure docket and indicated that approximately 20% of the judge’s docket comes from this foreclosure firm. May the Judicial Official participate in this social outing and attend the concert?
Response: The inquiry was circulated to the Committee members and input solicited. Rule 1.2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct provides that a judge “shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and 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 3.1(3) prohibits participation in extrajudicial activities “that would appear to a reasonable person to undermine the judge’s independence, integrity or impartiality.”
Based upon the information provided, including that this is a small-group social event that is being jointly organized by the Judicial Official’s spouse and the spouse of a foreclosure firm attorney whose cases make up a large portion of the Judicial Official’s docket, the Judicial Official was advised that he/she should not participate in the social outing.