State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 96-09
May a judicial officer accept an invitation by MADD to be the keynote speaker at their dinner on the topic: The Role of MADD and the Court System?
A district court judge has been asked to be the keynote speaker at a Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) dinner. The dinner is part of a three-day advanced victim training seminar. They will be discussing partnership between law enforcement and MADD and law enforcement officers will be in attendance.
CJC Canon 2(A) provides that judges should conduct themselves at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Canon 4(A) provides in part that judges may participate in activities to improve the law, the legal system and the administration of justice, if in so doing they do not cast doubt upon their impartiality to decide any issue that may come before them. Finally, 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.
The judicial officer may not speak on the topic of “The Role of MADD and the Court System.” Speaking on this topic will cast doubt on the judicial officer’s capacity to decide impartially DUI issues which may come before the judicial officer.
Given the proposed title topic, “The Role of MADD and the Court System” the judicial officer may be expected to define what should be the role of MADD or any other advocacy group. Singling out and defining the role of one advocacy group could create a problem in that it appears the judge may favor or listen to MADD associates more than other participants. Defining what should be the role of an advocacy group necessarily involves a series of value judgments about the subject matter by the person making the definition. Such expressions might cast doubt about the perception of the judicial officer’s capacity to decide impartially DUI issues.
See Opinions 92-10, 93-19 and 95-8.
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