A sitting State Court Judge requests an opinion as to whether serving as a member of the Advisory Board to the Gwinnett Branch of the Justice Center of Atlanta would violate Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct given the fact that the judge refers appropriate cases, both civil and criminal, to this agency for mediation.
Rule 3.7(A)(2) expressly authorizes judges to serve as members, officers, or directors of organizations or governmental agencies devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice, subject only to the proper performance of their judicial duties and, unless in doing so, they cast doubt on their capacity to decide impartially any issue that may come before them. The Commentary following Canon 4 expressly states:
“To the extent that time permits, and judicial independence and impartiality are not compromised, judges are encouraged to engage in appropriate law-related activities. As a judicial officer and person specially learned in the law, a judge is 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, either independently or through a bar association, judicial conference, or other organization dedicated to such improvements.”
The Justice Center of Atlanta is obviously an organization or governmental agency coming within the express language of Rule 3.7(A)(2) and the fact that the judge routinely refers appropriate matters to this agency for mediation would not appear to prohibit service by the judge on the Advisory Board.
Canon 3 would likewise appear to constitute no hindrance to such service unless the Advisory Board is likely to be engaged in policy-making decisions that may have political significance or imply commitment to causes that may come before the courts for adjudication.
Subject to the restrictions and limitations stated above, there appears to be no reason why the judge should not serve on the Advisory Board, and accordingly, the question posed should be answered in the negative.
[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rule 3.7. Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #105, #174, #178.]