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Opinion 32

Inquiry has been made of the Judicial Qualifications Commission as to whether a Judge of the Superior Court may establish a business corporation for the restoration and resale of antique automobiles.

Under Rule 2.1, it is provided: “The judicial duties of judges take precedence over all their other activities.”

Rule 3.11(B) provides: “Judges should refrain from financial and business dealings with lawyers, litigants, and others that tend to reflect adversely on their impartiality, interfere with the proper performance of their judicial duties, or exploit their judicial positions.”

In Rule 3.11(D), it is provided: “Judges should manage their investments and other financial interests to minimize the number of cases in which they are disqualified.”

These provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct seem to necessarily imply that it is not improper per se for a judge to engage in a business enterprise unless the business activity is such that it interferes with his judicial duties or reflects adversely on his impartiality, or exploits his judicial position, or involves him in frequent transactions with lawyers or others likely to come before the court on which he serves, or serves to disqualify him in a substantial number of cases which might come before him.

It would not appear that the ownership of a corporation for the restoration and resale of antique automobiles would in and of itself constitute a violation of the Canons. However, the Superior Court Judge should at all times keep in mind the provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct referred to above so as to be certain that he is in full compliance with these provisions.

The further inquiry has been made as to whether a Judge of a State Court may properly own and operate a private law school.

The Commission believes that the ownership and operation by a judge of a private law school is highly questionable. This is true because the operation of the law school might well be considered to constitute an exploitation of his judicial position, and since graduates of the law school who are admitted to the bar are likely to appear in his court, one might reasonably feel that he might be partial to graduates of his school and puts him in the position of having frequent transactions with candidates for the bar who might practice in his court. The Commission is therefore of the opinion that a judge should not own and operate a private law school.

[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rules 1.2(B), 2.2, 2.4(C), 2.11(A), 3.1(C), 3.11(B), 3.11(C), 3.11(D). Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #11, #40, #46, #47, #53, #61, #76, #102, #148, #160, #189.]

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