The Judicial Qualifications Commission has been asked for an opinion as to whether it would be appropriate for an attorney who acts as a pro hac Judge in a magistrate Court to accept employment from a company to serve as a lecturer at seminars designed to teach consumers how to handle their legal affairs pro se, where much of the seminars would be devoted to teaching them how to prevail in a small claims court. The judge would be compensated on a per diem basis, plus a bonus calculated either as a percentage of profit or based on the number of persons attending the seminars.
Rule 3.7(A) states that Judges “engage in activities concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice,” unless in doing so they would cast doubt on their capacity to decide impartially issues that may come before them.
For that reason, this question must be answered in the affirmative, subject to the provision of Rule 1.3 that Judges shall never lend the prestige of their office to advance the private interests of others and and Rule 2.4(C) that Judges shall not convey, or permit others to convey, the impression that they are in a special position to influence them.
As here applied, this means that, while employment to lecture on the law is not inappropriate, great care must be exercised to avoid any arrangement which might give the impression that the prestige of the office is being used to advance the private interests of another, or that it is being exploited to increase the compensation of the judge. For that reason, to the extent that the proposed arrangement contemplates that compensation is to be based on a percentage of profit or on the number attending, it would not be appropriate.
[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rules 1.2(B), 2.2, 2.4(B), 2.10(A), 2.10(D), 2.11(A), 3.1(A), 3.7(A), 3.11(B), 3.11(C), 3.11(D), 3.12. Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #11, #32, #46, #47, #53, #61, #76, #114, #148, #160, #189.]