2015-07 (Emergency Staff Opinion issued March 26, 2015)
Extrajudicial Activities; Off the Bench Conduct; Avoiding Abuse of Office
Rules 1.2, 1.3, 2.1 & 3.1
Issue: A Judicial Official has inquired whether he or she may be a contestant on the television reality show “The Amazing Race”.
Additional Facts: To the best of the Judicial Official’s knowledge, there is a prize for the winning team but otherwise there is no compensation, although expenses for participating in the race are included (i.e. travel, etc.). The Judicial Official would use his or her vacation time to cover the period away from work. The notice for last season’s open try outs stated that the winning team gets a prize of $1,000,000 and that the race lasts approximately 25 days. Prior year’s instructions indicate that individuals may apply either as a two-person team or as a single person. The Judicial Official did not indicate whether he or she would be applying as part of a team or as an individual.
Relevant Code Provisions: Rules 1.2, 1.3, 2.1 and 3.1.
Rule 1.2 states 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 1.3 states that a judge “shall not use or attempt to use the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or others or to allow others to do so.”
Rule 2.1 states that the judicial duties of a judge take precedence over all of a judge’s personal and extrajudicial activities.
Rule 3.1 states that a judge may engage in extrajudicial activities, except as prohibited by law, however, a judge shall not participate in activities that, inter alia (1) will interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties, (2) lead to frequent disqualification, or (3) appear to a reasonable person to undermine the judge’s independence, integrity or impartiality.
The Amazing Race is a television show which is produced as a commercial product. While some may not consider competing in such an event as “dignified”, Rule 1.2 only prohibits conduct that reflects adversely on the Judicial Official’s honesty, impartiality, temperament or fitness to serve. Rule 2.1 requires
that the Judicial Official’s judicial duties take precedence over any personal or extrajudicial duties. Similarly, Rule 3.1 prohibits extrajudicial activities that interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties. Rule 1.3 prohibits the use of prestige of Judicial office to advance the Judicial Official’s or anyone else’s personal or economic interests.
In JE 2012-13, at issue was the extent to which a Judicial Official could cooperate with the publisher of a book that the Judicial Official had authored. This Committee imposed the following condition in order to address concerns about a potential violation of Rule 1.3:
- 3. The Judicial Official should not use, or permit others to use, his/her judicial title or office or otherwise exploit the judicial position for promotional purposes. The Judicial Official’s title and experience as a judge may, however, be included in the author’s biography as long as the biographical sketch contains only factual statements intended to inform the reader of the judge’s qualifications and experience (Rule 1.3)
Similarly, in JE 2014-15, this Committee determined that a Judicial Official may author a chapter in a treatise subject to, inter alia, the following conditions:
- 1. The Judicial Official may not use, or permit others to use, his/her judicial title or office or otherwise exploit the judicial position for promotional purposes. The Judicial Official’s title and experience as a judge may, however, be included in a biography as long as the biographical sketch contains only factual statements intended to inform the reader of the judge’s qualifications and experience (see Rule 1.3);
- 2. The Judicial Official should retain the right to review and pre-approve the use of any biographical information about the Judicial Official in connection with the sale or publicity of the treatise (see Rule 1.3);
Based upon the facts provided, the Judicial Official was advised that he or she may apply and participate, if selected, subject to the following conditions:
- Consistent with Rules 2.1 and 3.1, the Judicial Official receives advance permission to take off the time and doing so does not interfere with the proper performance of his or her judicial duties.
- The Judicial Official should make known to the show that his or her title may not be used for promotional or commercial purposes and in order to comply with Rule 1.3, the Judicial Official should retain the right to review and pre-approve the use of any
biographical information about the Judicial Official to be used in connection with the show.
- The Judicial Official’s association with his or her teammate does not result in a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct (i.e. create an appearance of impropriety in violation of Rule 1.2, result in frequent disqualifications in violation of Rule 3.1, etc.).