State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 00-02
Should a judicial officer restrict court manager membership in an association of court managers if vendors may also be members of the court managers association?
The court managers’ association has a membership category which includes vendors. The vendors are not allowed to host association events but they are allowed active participation in the association. The association’s goal in encouraging vendor participation is to educate vendors in court needs and court managers in current technology and products relevant to court operations.
CJC Canon 2(B) provides in part that judges should not allow relationships to influence their judicial conduct or judgment, lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the interests of others or permit others to convey the impression they are in a special position to influence the judge. Canon 3(B)(2) provides court staff subject to the judge’s direction and control should observe the standards of fidelity and diligence that apply to judges.
The CJC does not specifically address the question asked beyond requiring judicial officers to ensure that staff subject to the judicial officer’s control observe the standards of fidelity and diligence that apply to judges. This means that vendor membership in and of itself does not give rise to any ethical problems for judges. Judges, therefore, need not restrict court employee involvement in the association provided all vendors are extended the opportunity to become members of the association.
But judges who have supervisory authority over court staff should admonish those court employees that they must treat all vendors the same in all circumstances regardless of whether or not the vendor is a member of the management association.
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