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Opinion 197

A full-time City Court Judge requests an opinion on the propriety of continued service on the Board of Directors for the Georgia affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) in light of the language of Rule 3.7(B)(1)(a) of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

With respect to judges serving as officers and directors of civic and charitable organizations, the cited Canon provides in pertinent part:

(a) judges shall not serve if it is likely that the organization will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before them; (b) judges shall not serve if it is likely that the organization will be regularly engaged in adversary proceedings in any court 

Commentary [3] to this section further provides in pertinent part:

The changing nature of some organizations and of their relationship to the law makes it necessary for judges regularly to re-examine the activities of each organization with which they are affiliated to determine if it is proper for them to continue their relationship with it. . . . Similarly, the boards of some legal aid organizations now make policy decisions that may have political significance or imply commitment to causes that may come before the courts for adjudication.

While the detailed activities of the ACLU are not provided by the requesting judge, it is a matter of common knowledge that the organization is regularly engaged in adversary proceedings in various courts. In addition, such an organization might well be viewed as an organization conducted for the political advantage of its members, and as such, judicial participation is expressly prohibited by Rule 3.7(B)(1).

Measured by these standards, it is the opinion of the Commission that continued service as a member of the Board of Directors of the ACLU is inappropriate.

[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rule 3.7. Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #78, #89, #103, #176, #194.]

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