State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 07-04
May a court participate as a sponsor/host of a conference where funding will be provided both by grants and contributions from a major company?
A municipal court has been approached by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Center for Court Innovation (a partnership between New York unified courts and a private non-profit which helps courts and criminal justice agencies) to host a national community court conference. The municipal court has a community court which is unique because it has targeted some of the hardest to manage defendants in the country.
Funds would be used to secure a venue, cover expenses for meals, transportation for conference attendees and costs for guest speakers. None of the funds would be used by the municipal court to cover any of the expenses related to hosting events at the courthouse or cover staff and judicial officers who will be participating.
The court does not intend to pursue underwriting but would work through the BJA and the Center for Court Innovation. The commitment the court has from a private company came as a result of discussions by the city attorney’s office and not through the court’s efforts.
The city attorney’s office had made a commitment to provide some funding out of its operating budget. This funding would be paid either directly to the Center for Court Innovation or paid directly to cover the conference expenses.
CJC Canon 4 generally provides that judges may engage in activities to improve the law, the legal system and the administration of justice if these activities do not cast doubt on their capacity to decide impartially any issue that might come before them. Canon 2(B) provides in relevant part that judges should not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of others. Canon 2(A) provides in part that judges should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
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