Opinion 181

A newly appointed part-time State Court Judge requests an opinion on the following question: May an individual simultaneously serve as Municipal Court Solicitor and part-time State Court Judge in the same city and county?

This Commission is of the opinion that no judge should simultaneously serve as a prosecuting attorney of any kind – solicitor, district attorney, assistant or otherwise – in any court. The public is likely to believe that a judge who simultaneously serves as a prosecutor – by whatever name – will be partial to the state, and an appearance of impropriety will arise.

Rule 1.2(A) provides:

Judges shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary.

Commentary [2] to Rule 1.2 further provides:

“Judges must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. Judges must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny. Judges must therefore accept restrictions on their conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen, and they should do so freely and willingly.”

Simply stated, dual service as a judge and prosecutor would inevitably lead to the erosion of public confidence demanded by this Canon and essential to the proper administration of justice and, thus, cannot be sanctioned.

For all these reasons, the questions posed must be answered in the negative.

[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Canon 1, Rule 1.2. Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #34, #70, #101, #151, #162, #172, #179.]

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