State of Washington
Ethics Advisory Committee
- May a judicial officer, who regularly hears dependency cases, attend an annual event held to thank GALs for their work and speak at the even thanking them for their work? If dinner is served at the event at no cost to all attendees including the commissioner, may the commissioner accept the invitation?
- A judicial officer is also a photographer, and derives income from the sale of limited-edition prints. May the judicial officer engage in the following activities:
- The local bar association holds an annual Christmas party which is attended by lawyers, judicial officers and spouses. A silent auction is held that benefits the local pro bono volunteer attorney services program through the sale of donated items. May the judicial officer donate a signed print to the silent auction?
- A local non-profit dispute resolution center offers out-of-court mediation services. Some parties using those services have an active case filed in court, or may later resort to the courts for final resolution. May the judicial officer (who sometimes orders parties to participate in mediation) donate a signed print to an auction which benefits that organization?
- DSHS would like to enhance its adoption efforts of legally free children by including professional portraits. May a judicial officer, who primarily hears dependency and termination cases, volunteer services to provide those portraits, for children whose cases are in another county and do not appear in the judicial officer’s courtroom?
- Make-A-Wish Foundation asks the photographer for a donation for its auction. The auction winner would have a personal portrait taken and printed by the photographer in the photographer’s studio. The photographer’s role as a judicial officer is not disclosed in the auction catalog, advertising or bidding process.
- Disadvantaged children are offered an opportunity to participate in a voluntary summer writing program. May a judicial officer, who hears dependency cases, donate a cash prize to be awarded at the conclusion of the program? The recipient will not be selected by the judicial officer, but will likely be a dependent child. May the judicial officer appear at the ceremony and offer congratulations to the child who wins the award?
- CJC Canon 4 provides in part that judges may engage in quasi-judicial activities if in doing so they do not cast doubt on their capacity to decide impartially any issue that may come before them. Section (C) of that canon provides that judges may attend the fund raising events of law related organizations and may assist in raising funds but may not personally solicit funds from the public. CJC Canon 5 addresses participation in civic and charitable activities. A judge may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon their impartiality or interfere with the performance of their judicial duties. For example, when practicable, the judicial officer should look over the list of attendees, if available, invited to attend the function in advance of the function to determine that the make up of the invitees would not cause the judicial officer’s attendance to reflect adversely on the judicial officer’s impartiality. Also see Opinion 91-27.
- Generally, a judicial officer, who regularly hears dependency cases, may attend an annual event that thanks GALs for their work and speak at that event. Remarks, if any, should be of a general nature and not address any cases which are pending in any court. The court commissioner may attend the function at no cost if it is the same invitation which is being extended to all attendees.
2(a) A judicial officer may donate a signed print of a photograph to the local bar association’s annual fund raising event and may attend the event. See Opinion 95-6 Amended.
2(b) A judicial officer may not donate a signed print to an auction which benefits a local non-profit dispute resolution center which offers out-of-court mediation services. Because parties using those services may have a case filed in court or may later file a case for resolution the fact that a judicial officer donated a signed photograph to the auction may give the impression that dispute resolution center is in a special position to influence the judicial officer or that the judicial officer might be partial regarding any determinations made by the dispute resolution center.
2(c) A judicial officer may offer to take photographs of legally free children who are eligible for adoption when those children are from another county and do not appear in the judicial officer’s courtroom because this service would not call the judicial officer’s impartiality into question or interfere with the judicial officer’s ability to perform judicial duties.
2(d) A judicial officer, who is also a photographer, may donate an auction item to a charitable organization (having a portrait taken) when the judicial officer’s status is not disclosed in the auction catalog, advertising or bidding process because the prestige of the judicial office is not being used to solicit charitable contributions.
- A judicial officer may donate a cash prize to be awarded to disadvantaged children participating in a voluntary summer writing program. The judicial officer may appear at the ceremony and offer congratulations to the child winning the award provided it is not a fund raising event. See Opinion 99-5.
The Supreme Court adopted a new Code of Judicial Conduct effective January 1, 2011. In addition to reviewing the ethics advisory opinions, the following should be noted: