State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 99-11
Does the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) have jurisdiction/authority over the participation by a judicial officer in any matter presented to that judicial officer or are those issues reserved to the judicial branch of government as provided in the Code of Judicial Conduct and WA const. art. IV, § 4?
Before assuming the bench, the judicial officer served as a part-time public official while also practicing law. During those years, the judicial officer received reporting modifications from the PDC regarding the identity of clients of the law firm. After appointment to the bench, the judicial officer resigned from the law firm and all corporate positions prior to coming to the bench. The judge filed a Statement of Financial Affairs with the PDC but requesting a reporting modification similar to the modifications previously received. The PDC granted the reporting modification. In addition it entered as order which provided in part that the judicial officer be recused from participating in any matter affecting the interests of the judicial officer’s former law firm or its clients.
WA const. art. IV § 31 empowers the Commission on Judicial Conduct to administer judicial discipline. In adopting GR 10, the Supreme Court has designated the Ethics Advisory Committee as the body to give advice with respect to the application of the provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct to judges. RCW 42.17.360 in part defines the Public Disclosure Commission’s duties as developing and providing forms and statements required by the public disclosure act and other acts to ensure compliance and reporting under the act. It is not given any authority to administer judicial discipline outside compliance with RCW chap 42.17. Therefore, the PDC has no authority to advise a judicial officer on any matter which might come before the judicial officer while he or she is performing in that capacity. The Ethics Advisory Committee is authorized by the Supreme Court to render judicial ethics advisory opinions while the Commission on Judicial Conduct has jurisdiction over matters of judicial discipline.
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