State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 98-11
May an elected full-time district court judge serve as a member of a city ethics board?
The city is located entirely within the electoral boundaries of the judge’s electoral division of the county district court. The city operates its own municipal court; thus the judge does not routinely decide matters in which the city is a party. The position is uncompensated. The matters within the purview of the ethics board deal solely with city elected officials (an elected mayor and city council). The board has the power to sanction elected officials for violations of the city’s ethics ordinances. The district court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over any appeal from an ethics board decision. The members of the ethics board are nominated by the mayor and confirmed by a majority vote of the city council. The ethics board exists as a part of the executive branch of the municipal government. All municipal elected officials are elected on a nonpartisan basis.
CJC Canon 5(G) provides that judges may not accept appointment to a governmental committee that is concerned with issues of fact or policy on matters other than the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice.
The appointments to the city ethics board are made by the mayor and the city council. The board is a part of the executive branch of city government. The board has the power to sanction elected officials for violations of the city’s ethics ordinances. Based on the foregoing, the judicial officer is prohibited by Canon 5(G) from serving on the board because it is a governmental appointment to a board concerned with issues of fact or policy outside of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice.
Also see Opinions 88-2, 90-4, 90-16 and 95-4.
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