An opinion is requested on the following issue:
May a Superior Court Judge-elect continue the active practice of law and appear as trial counsel for clients during the interim period between election and assumption of office.
The requesting Judge-elect advises that opposing counsel has raised the issue as to whether his appearing as counsel after his election unfairly invokes the prestige of the judgeship on behalf of his client.
The Application section of the Code of Judicial Conduct limits the applicability of the Code to “anyone, whether or not a lawyer, who is an officer of a judicial system performing judicial functions” and paragraph C of this section permits newly selected judges to continue to engage in certain enumerated activities for periods up to one year.
A judge-elect is neither an officer of a judicial system nor an individual performing judicial functions. Consequently, such an individual is not subject to the requirements of the Code prior to formally assuming the office.
In addition, it would be unfair and unrealistic to require an active trial lawyer to immediately withdraw as counsel in pending cases simply because he or she has been elected to serve as a judge for a term to begin some several months after the election.
In sum, insofar as this request addresses judicial ethics, the question posed is answered in the affirmative. Ethical issues concerning attorney conduct are governed by the State Bar of Georgia and should be addressed to that body.
[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Application Section. Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #66, #71, #122, #135, #142, #180, #199.]