State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 98-09
May a judicial officer serve as a member of the board of directors of a nonprofit charitable corporation which operates, as one of its facilities, the psychiatric hospital at which the judicial officer presides over mental health and commitment hearings?
The corporation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt not-for-profit corporation which holds separate licenses for an acute care medical hospital, a psychiatric hospital, and participates in other health care related business ventures. The board of directors is involved in policy making at the corporate level affecting the overall corporate activities.
CJC Canon 5(B) provides in part that judges may participate in charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon their impartiality or interfere with the performance of their judicial duties.
Although the hospital would not be a party to the commitment hearing, it would have a pecuniary interest in the outcome of the proceedings. Presumably, if the individual were committed, the hospital would be financially reimbursed for the individual’s care. Conversely, if the individual were released, that economic interest would be lost. This contingent benefit is enough to create a situation which reflects adversely upon the judicial officer’s impartiality.
See Opinion 98-7.
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