An opinion is requested concerning the propriety of a sitting Superior Court Judge serving as a member of the Georgia Editorial Board of Lawyers Cooperative Publishing Company and receiving an honorarium of $2,500 per year, plus expenses, for performing specified duties which include:
(1) Attending Board meetings and functions as requested;
(2) Offering suggestions and comments aimed at improving existing and future products relevant to Georgia practitioners;
(3) Offering ideas for new products for the Georgia market;
(4) Offering suggestions for prospective authors and consultants in the State of Georgia;
(5) Offering ideas for seminar topics, speakers and sites, if requested; and
(6) Reviewing existing volumes to suggest changes or enhancements that would make them more useful for practitioners.
The limited role which the judge would have as a member of the editorial board would appear to constitute “activities devoted to improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice” and, thus, be authorized by Rule 3.7(A)(1) and (A)(2).
As noted in the Commentary to Rule 3.7:
As a judicial officer and person specially learned in the law, judges are in a unique position to contribute to improvement in the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice, including revision of substantive and procedural law and improvement of criminal and juvenile justice . . . .
While in some jurisdictions service on an editorial board of a publicly held company for compensation might constitute a violation of Canon 3, Georgia has never adopted the more restrictive view of Canon 3, and the new Code of Judicial Conduct (approved by the Supreme Court with an effective date of January 7, 2004) continues to permit judges to engage in remunerative activities.
In the unlikely event that Lawyers Cooperative Publishing Company should ever be a party in any matter within the jurisdiction of the requesting judge, the judge should voluntarily disclose the existing contractual arrangement and recuse upon request.
[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Canon 3. Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #61, #74, #102, #114.]