Friday, March 13, 2009
The South Carolina Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct has issued an opinion concluding that a judge may not preside over criminal cases when his uncle by marriage is the chief of police. The inquiry came from a municipal judge considering whether to appoint a particular candidate to a municipal judgeship. The committee concluded:
Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct requires that a judge “act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.” Rule 501, SCACR. Furthermore, Canon 3.E(1)(d), SCACR Rule 501 requires a judge to disqualify himself or herself if a person within the third degree of relationship or the spouse of such person is a party to the proceeding, acts as a lawyer to the proceeding, or is a material witness to the proceeding. The Code defines a person “within the third degree of relationship” as a “great-grandparent, grandparent, parent, uncle, aunt, brother, sister, child, grandchild, great-grandchild, nephew or niece.” Rule 501, Terminology (emphasis added).
The fact that the uncle of candidate for municipal judge is the chief of police who prosecutes cases in municipal court would require the judge to disqualify himself or herself from such cases. Repeated disqualification would render the judge unable to perform the duties of judicial office.