Frequently Asked Questions
Part-time Judicial Officers
Anyone, whether or not a lawyer, who is an officer of a judicial system and who performs judicial functions, including an officer such as a magistrate, court commissioner, special master or referee, is a judge within the meaning of the Code of Judicial Conduct. See Application of the Code of Judicial Conduct (A).
The Code of Judicial Conduct defines a part-time judge as those who serve on a continuing or periodic basis, but are permitted by law to devote time to some other profession or occupation and whose compensation for that reason is less than a full-time judge. See Code of Judicial Conduct Terminology "Part-time judges".
The Code of Judicial Conduct provides that:
1) except while performing the duties of a judge, a part-time judge is not required to comply with section 3(A)(8); and
Part-time judges are required to comply with the other provisions of the Code at all times. See Application of the Code of Judicial Conduct (A)(1).
Judges should arrange their affairs as soon as reasonably possible to comply with the provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct. See Application of the Code of Judicial Conduct (B).
II. Appearance of Impartiality.
CJC Canon 2(A) provides in part that judges should act at all times in a manner that promotes the public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Permitting an attorney who practices law with a part-time judicial officer to appear in a court over which the part-time judge presides undermines public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary and therefore is not permitted. See Opinion 91-26.
CJC Canon 2(B) provides in part that judges should not allow relationships to influence their judicial conduct or judgment. Judges should not convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence them. A part-time commissioner should not represent parties in matters which are heard in the court over which the judge appointing the part-time commissioner presides in an uncontested matter if the circumstances are such that it would cause the appointing judge's impartiality to be called into question. Whether the appointing judge may hear contested matters in which the part-time commissioner is acting as a lawyer in areas of litigation outside of those types of cases over which the commissioner presides will depend on the circumstances found in each situation. See Opinion 86-1.
A judicial officer may not preside over a matter in which a current client is either a party or a witness. A judicial officer may preside over a matter is which a former client is either a party or witness provided the subject matter of the litigation is unrelated to the matter on which the judicial officer represented the former client and there are not other circumstances which would call the judicial officer's impartiality into question. See CJC Canon 3(D)(1)(a).
A part-time judge must recuse from hearing cases in which attorneys with whom the part-time lawyer judge either formally practices or with attorneys who share office space with the part-time judge. The public does not make any distinction between these types of affiliations and therefore, the public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary would be undermined by any such appearances. See CJC Canon 2.
III. Misuse of Prestige of Office.
Canon 2(B) provides that judges may not use the prestige of judicial office to advance the interest of the judge or others. Therefore, letterhead may not in any way refer to the judge's judicial position. Only the part-time judge's name without the judicial title may appear as affiliated with the law firm on the letterhead. See CJC Canon 2(B).
IV. Civic and Charitable Activities.
CJC Canon 5(B) permits judges to engage in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon their impartiality or interfere with the performance of their judicial duties. They may engage in fundraising activities only if they do not use the prestige of the judicial office to solicit contributions. They may also attend fundraising events but they may not be speakers or the guest of honor at fundraising events. See Opinion 85-9.
V. Business Activities.
Part-time judges are not required to comply with Canon 5(C)(2) which prohibits full-time judges from involving themselves in frequent business transactions with lawyers or persons likely to come before them. Even though part-time judges are permitted to enter into business transactions with lawyers, they must nevertheless be mindful that judicial duties must take precedence over all other responsibilities and therefore, they should not become involved in transactions which would cause them to have to recuse themselves from hearing matters or which would call their impartiality into question. See CJC Canon 3.
VI. Outside Employment.
Yes. The Application section of the Code of Judicial Conduct provides that a part-time judge is not required to comply with Canon 5(F). A part-time judge may engage in the practice of law. See Opinion 94-4.
Part-time judicial officers may be engaged in another occupation or profession so long as that occupation or profession does not interfere with the performance of their judicial duties or reflect adversely upon the judicial office or the impartiality of the judicial officer. See Opinion 86-4.
A part-time judicial officer generally may represent criminal defendants in other jurisdictions. The part-time judge cannot act as a lawyer in a proceeding in which the judicial officer has served as a judge or in any other proceeding related thereto. See Opinion 91-13.
A part-time judge may act as either an arbitrator or mediator. See Application of the Code of Judicial Conduct (A)(1)(a)(ii) and CJC Canon 5(F).
VII. Contracting with Government to Perform Legal Services.
A part-time judge may contract with a government entity different from the one where the judicial officer is employed and provide either legal or other services such as act as a guardian or GAL, provided those responsibilities do not interfere with the performance of the judicial duties or reflect adversely upon the judicial officer's impartiality. See Opinions 89-14, 90-2, 96-7, 98-3 and 99-6.
VIII. Political Activities.
No. CJC Canon 7(A)(4) provides that judges must resign from office when they become a candidate for any nonjudicial office. See Opinion 85-8.
No. CJC Canon 7(A)(1)(b) provides that a judicial officer may not publicly endorse a nonjudicial candidate for public office. Canon 7 is among those provisions with which part-time judges need to comply. Therefore, a part-time judicial officer may not publicly endorse a candidate for prosecuting attorney either as a judicial officer or as a private citizen or attorney. See Opinion 93-9.
Part-time judicial officers are required to comply with Canon 7. They may not engage in partisan political activities such as attending political functions, making a contribution to a political party, organization or nonjudicial candidate or identify themselves as members of a political party. They may attend partisan political functions solely to speak as a judicial candidate, on behalf of a judicial candidate or to speak on judicial branch topics and issues so long as no affiliation or alignment with any partisan party or position is indicated. See In Re Blauvelt 115 Wn 2d 735, 801 P2d 235 (1990).
A candidate is a person seeking election to judicial office. A person becomes a candidate for judicial office as soon as he or she makes a public announcement of candidacy, declares or files as a candidate with the election authority, or authorizes solicitation or acceptance of contributions or support. See Code of Judicial Conduct Terminology "candidate".
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