Opinion 176

The Commission has been requested to render an opinion on the following question: Does the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibit a sitting Georgia Court of Appeals Judge from serving as a Director of the federally created State Justice Institute (SJI)?

42 U.S.C.A. §§ 10702 and 10703 establish the SJI as a private, non-profit corporation, the stated purpose of which is “to further the development and adoption of improved judicial administration in State Courts in the United States.” The Act provides for a Board of Directors consisting of eleven members to be appointed by the President of the United States. Six of the eleven members are to be judges who are to be nominated for the President’s consideration by the Conference of Chief Justices.

Under these circumstances, service by a judge on the Board of Directors of the SJI appears to represent participation in activities to improve the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice. As such, participation is governed by 3.7(A)(2), which provides:

(A) Judges may engage in activities concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice, provided that doing so will not interfere with the 36 performance of their official duties or cast doubt on their capacity to impartially decide any issue….(2) Judges may serve as members of an organization or governmental agency concerning the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice. Judges shall not give investment advice to such an organization, but they may serve on its board of directors or trustees and participate in its management, even when governance includes the responsibility for approving investment decisions. 

While Commission Opinion Nos. 38, 105 and 115 may be tangentially applicable, they do not appear to bar a sitting Court of Appeals Judge from serving as a director of SJI. Accordingly, and assuming that such service does not otherwise violate the judge’s oath of office, the question posed must be answered in the negative.

[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Canon 1, Rules 1.2(B), 3.7(A)(2), 3.7(B), 3.4. Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #34, #38, #70, #101, #105, #115, #137, #151, #152, #162, #172, #179.]

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