State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 93-02
May a state court judicial officer serve on the board of a non-profit corporation which oversees the operation of the federal public defender?
CJC Canon 4(C) provides that judges may serve as directors of an organization devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system and the administration of justice if in doing so they do not cast doubt on their capacity to decide impartially any issue that comes before them. CJC Canon 5(B) provides that judges may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon their impartiality or interfere with the performance of their judicial duties. CJC Canon 5(B)(1) also provides that judges should not serve if it is likely that an organization will be regularly engaged in adversary proceedings in any court and the comment to that provision specifically discusses participation on the boards of legal aid organizations.
Despite the reference in the comment to "legal aid organizations" the Committee concluded that quasi-judicial activities are governed by CJC Canon 4 and not by CJC Canon 5 which governs extrajudicial activities. Therefore, the CJC 5(B)(1) prohibition against participating in an organization which will be regularly engaged in adversary proceedings in any court is not applicable when judicial officers serve as directors of an organization devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system and the administration of justice.
The federal public defender board is involved with the legal system and the administration of justice and therefore, is governed by CJC Canon 4. A state court judicial officer may serve on the federal public defender board.
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