State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 86-15
(1) Every judicial officer in this state has official stationery which, for the most part, bears either the state or a county logo or some art work which may have been designed by the judge. The stationery usually designates that the person is a judicial officer of a particular court in or for the state or a particular county and the business address. Undoubtedly, the stationery may be used when dealing with court related matters. Should this stationery be used:
(a) to arrange social functions between judges, i.e., golf tournament, dinner, meetings, or bar functions;
(b) to inquire about the judge’s personal or real property tax assessments, license registrations, automobile registrations, i.e., correspondence with another governmental agency outside the judiciary regarding personal business matters,
(c) correspondence with a court in another county or jurisdiction where a family member has a matter pending and the correspondence relates to that pending matter?
(2) Some judges have purchased at their own expense a ream or so of the official stationery for their personal use. Should there be some designation thereon that this stationery was paid for with personal funds or not printed at public expense?
(3) If a judge has personal stationery printed which does not contain the state seal, county logo, or the judge’s own art work, i.e., not official stationery:
(a) What is a proper caption?
(b) Is the judge permitted to have on this stationery that her or she is a judge?
(c) May the judge have on this stationery that he or she is a judge of a specific court?
If he or she does either (a) or (b), may the judge use the official business address as a return address, be it a courthouse or post office box?
(4) May a judge use on his or her personal bank checks, credit card, or driver’s license his or her official title, i.e., Judge, with or without designating the court (perhaps Judge and Mrs. John Doe)?
It is proper for a judge to use official stationery to arrange social functions between judges since such use cannot exploit the judicial position. (CJC Canon 2(A)).
It is not proper for a judge to use official stationery to inquire about the judge’s personal or real property assessments, license or automobile registrations or to conduct correspondence with another governmental agency outside the judiciary regarding person business matters since such could give the appearance of exploiting the judicial position. (CJC Canon 2(A)).
It is not proper for a judge to use official stationery to correspond with a court in another county or jurisdiction where a family member has a matter pending and the correspondence relates to the pending matter as it could lend the prestige of the office to advance the private interests of the family member. (CJC Canon 2(B)).
The question as to whether official stationery purchased by a judge at personal expense should designate such was not paid for a t public expense is not an ethical question since disclosure of the source of funds used to purchase the stationery is not dispositive in determining appropriate usage.
A judge may have personal stationery printed which bears the title judge as long as such could not be confused with the judge’s official stationery and is not used to exploit the judicial office. The personal stationery should omit the judge’s official address and again the use should be consistent with the above.
It is permissible for a judge’s personal bank check or credit card to bear the title judge if it is not displayed for purposes or used in a manner which would appear to exploit the judicial position. It is not proper for a driver’s license to bear the title judge.
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