Opinion 47

The Judicial Qualifications Commission has been asked to render an opinion as to whether the obtaining by a Justice of the Peace of a listing in the Yellow Pages of a local telephone directory is a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Rule 1.2(B) of such Code provides in part:

. . . Judges shall participate in establishing, maintaining, and enforcing high standards of conduct, and shall personally observe such standards of conduct so that the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary may be preserved. The provisions of this Code should be construed and applied to further that objective.

Canon 1 provides in part as follows:

Judges “Shall Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in All of Their Activities.”  

Rule 1.1 states “Judges shall respect and comply with the law.” Rule 1.2(A) additionally provides judges “shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary.”

Commentary [2] under Canon 1 provides in part:

Public confidence in the judiciary is eroded by irresponsible or improper conduct of judges. Judges must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. Judges must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny. Judges must therefore accept restrictions on their conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen, and they should do so freely and willingly.

It is the opinion of the Commission that there would be no impropriety in the obtaining by a Justice of the Peace of a listing in the Yellow Pages of the Telephone Directory under the heading “Justices of the Peace” which simply states his name, his address or addresses, and his telephone number or numbers. A listing of such basic information with respect to various Justices of the Peace in a particular locality, in a document readily accessible to the general public such as the Yellow Pages of the Telephone Directory, might serve a useful purpose, and could hardly be construed as constituting advertising by the individuals who are listed.

However, the individual listings should be confined to the information set out above. The inclusion of additional information which might be construed as an advertisement for the services of the Justice of the Peace, such as, for example, a description of the various services which he is available to perform for the public or language stating his period of service in the office or otherwise indicating his experience or qualifications, would in the opinion of the Commission clearly be improper and in violation of the Canons referred to above.

Furthermore, the Commission is of the opinion that it is improper for a Yellow Page listing of a Justice of the Peace, even though confined to name, address and telephone number, to be printed in heavy type. It appears that no purpose would be served by a listing in heavy type other than that of attracting the attention of the public to the name of the particular Justice of the Peace involved, as distinguished from the names of the various other Justices of the Peace contained in the Yellow Pages list under the heading “Justices of the Peace.” Such use of heavy type, therefore, would appear to be an advertising device, designed to catch the attention of the public and encourage its utilization of the services of that particular Justice of the Peace, who, under the fee system currently in effect in Georgia might expect resulting financial benefit to himself. This would constitute an impropriety in violation of the Judicial Code provisions above set out.

[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Canon 1, Rules 1.2(B), 2.8, 3.1(A), 3.7(A)(1), 3.11, 3.12. Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #28, #32, #61, #82, #97, #102.]

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