State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 97-13
May a judicial officer serve on a state agency commission’s advisory committee?
This committee advises the state parks and recreation commission regarding the administration of the Snowmobile Act and also advises the commission in the planned development of snowmobile facilities and programs. It is strictly advisory in nature; all policy and administrative decisions are made by the commission. The advisory committee has members primarily drawn from the snowmobiling community, but it also has two members interested in winter recreation who are not snowmobilers. The committee was established by RCW 46.10.220.
The judicial officer is a cross-country skier, has lived in a national forest in a developed ski area where there was also snowmobiling activity and served as a member of the state parks and recreation commission for ten years before assuming the bench.
CJC Canon 5(A) provides in part that judges may engage in sports and other social and recreational activities. The comment to section (A) notes the complete separation of judges from extrajudicial activities is neither possible or wise; they should not become isolated from the society in which they live. 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 judicial duties. Canon 5(G) provides that judges should not accept appointment to a governmental committee, commission or other position that is concerned with issues of fact or policy on matters other than the improvement of the law, the legal system and the administration of justice. The comment to section (G) notes the appropriateness of conferring these assignments on judges must be reassessed in light of the demands on the judiciary created by today’s crowded dockets and the need to protect the courts from involvement in extrajudicial matters that may prove to be controversial. Additionally, it states that judges should not be expected or permitted to accept governmental appointments that could interfere with the efficiency, effectiveness and independence of the judiciary.
This committee acts only as an advisory committee to a state agency on the development of snowmobile facilities and programs and engages in no formal fact-finding. All policy and administrative decisions are made by the commission. Because the commission is advisory only it does not fall within the prohibitions of Canon 5(G). A judicial officer may serve on the snowmobile advisory committee.
Also see Opinions 93-13 and 95-9.
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