State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 00-04
May a superior court judge permit a court bailiff to accept employment to supervise visitation in domestic cases where “supervised visitation” has been either ordered by the court or agreed to by the parties?
If the answer is in the negative, would a waiver, signed by both parties, agreeing that the paid supervisor may testify as to any elements of that visitation, if subpoenaed, make any difference?
Off-duty bailiffs supervise visitations in pending domestic relations cases.
CJC Canon 1 provides in part that judges should participate in maintaining high standards of conduct so that the integrity of the judiciary will be preserved. Canon 2(B) provides in part that judges shall avoid the appearance of impropriety in their activities and should not permit others to convey the impression they are in a position to influence the judge. Finally, Canon 3(B)(2) provides that judges should require their staff and court officials subject to their direction and control to observe the standards of fidelity and diligence that apply to them.
Permitting court bailiffs to act as paid supervisors for visitations runs afoul of several of these provisions. If the bailiff were to appear as a witness in a case before the same bench where he or she is employed, it could compromise the integrity of the judiciary (Canon 1), give rise to an appearance of partiality or impropriety (Canon 2) or that the bailiff is in a position to influence the judicial officer (Canon 2(B)). Canon 3(B) provides the judicial officer require staff to observe the same standards that apply to the judge. The fact that the parties might waive their objections to the bailiff testifying does not relieve the judicial officer of the responsibility of ensuring that the proceedings are in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
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