Monday, November 9, 2009
A recent opinion from the South Carolina Advisory Committee on Standards of Judicial Conduct concludes that a magistrate judge and a family court judge may not participate in a seminar concerning domestic violence. The facts:
A magistrate judge and a family court judge have inquired as to the propriety of appearing on a panel at a seminar designed to provide education and information regarding domestic violence in the community. The program is co-sponsored by several groups, including the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, the local housing authority, and others. The seminar is a community outreach program, the purpose of which is to provide education and information. There will be several booths with promotional materials by the victim advocate groups, the Salvation Army, DSS, YWCA, and others. The judges were asked to be on the "enforcement panel" at the seminar.
Canon 4 specifically addresses extra judicial activities. It requires that a judge regulate them to minimize the risk of conflict with judicial activities. A judge shall conduct all of the judge's extra-judicial activities so that they do not cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge. Canon 4(a)(1), Rule 501, SCACR. Speaking a seminar on domestic violence under the facts presented could give rise to partiality towards the victims of domestic violence and create the appearance of impropriety. Therefore, the judge should not participate as speakers at the seminar.