An opinion is requested on the propriety of a part-time Recorders Court Judge (or a clerk in his office) attending or participating in meetings of a Public Safety Coordinating Council established by a City Police Department. Information accompanying this request indicates that one of the purposes of this Council is “to enable law enforcement agencies to obtain feedback on investigative error or courtroom error; that the Council will consist of representatives from numerous law enforcement agencies, as well as every court in the County; and that from time to time, the Council will offer non-binding recommendations for the resolution of conflicts between governmental agencies.”
Somewhat similar issues have been addressed in Opinion Nos. 57, 78, 105, 115 and 174, and differing conclusions reached depending upon the particular facts involved. Most turn on the appropriate interpretation and application of Rule 3.7(A)(2), which provides in pertinent part:
Judges may serve as members, officers or directors of any organization or governmental agency devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice . . . .
The Commentary to this Canon goes further, noting:
As a judicial officer and person specially learned in the law, judges are in a unique position to contribute to the improvement of the law, the legal system and the administration of justice, including revision of substantive and procedural law and improvement of criminal and juvenile justice. To the extent that time permits, judges are encouraged to do so, either independently or through a bar association, judicial conference, or other organization dedicated to the improvement of the law.
The Council is “an organization or governmental agency devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice.” For this reason, and provided such service does not interfere with the proper performance of his duties, it is the opinion of this Commission that the judge may appropriately serve on the Council unless such service is such as to cast doubt on his capacity to impartially decide issues which may come before him.
[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Canon 1, Rules 1.2(B), 2.8, 3.7(A)(2), 3.7(B), 3.4. Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #57, #78, #105, #115, #125, #158, #174, #194, #201.]