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Opinion 166

The Judicial Qualifications Commission has been asked for an Advisory Opinion as to the obligation, if any, of a judge to report a violation of the Internal Revenue Code to the I.R.S. when it becomes obvious that a witness has admitted such violations under oath in unrelated litigation.

This appears to be an issue of first impression in this State and the canons do not appear to directly address the question. However, several of our sister states have addressed the issue, and the reported opinions tend to support the proposition that, although the Code of Judicial Conduct does not create a special obligation under these circumstances, there is nothing which prohibits a judge from reporting the suspected criminal act. Thus, while a judge does not appear to have an ethical duty to report civil and criminal tax fraud or matters relating to tax fraud, he/she may nevertheless ethically report suspected criminal activity that comes to his/her attention during the course of unrelated civil litigation.

Accordingly, it is the opinion of this Commission that a judge is not obligated to report a violation of the Internal Revenue Code to the I.R.S. even if a violation is admitted by a witness under oath, although nothing would appear to prohibit the judge from reporting such suspected criminal act. The Commission declines to opine or comment upon the effect of such report upon the judge’s judicial immunity.

[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Canons 1, Rule 1.2(B), 2.8. Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #34, #70, #101, #137, #151, #162, #172, #181.]

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