Wednesday, March 21, 2012
A new judicial ethics opinion from South Carolina:
ON STANDARDS OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT
OPINION NO. 6 - 2012
RE: Does the Code of Judicial Conduct require a municipal judge to transfer an employee to another department because the employee’s spouse is undergoing a criminal investigation.
The spouse of an employee of a municipal court is being investigated by a federal agency. While the employee is not being investigated, there is a concern that the employee has access through the South Carolina Law Enforcement Department to National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. The database contains information regarding the employee’s spouse and others who are targets of the federal investigation. A municipal judge inquires as to whether the Code of Judicial Conduct requires the judge to transfer the employee to another department in order to avoid the appearance of any impropriety.
A judge must require court staff to observe the same standards of fidelity and diligence that apply to the judge.
Canon 3C(2) states that a “a judge shall require staff, court officials, and others subject to the judge’s direction and control to observe the standards of fidelity and diligence that apply to the judge and to refrain from manifesting bias or prejudice in the performance of their official duties.” The term “require” means “a judge is to exercise reasonable direction and control over the conduct of those persons subject to the judge’s direction and control.” Rule 501, SCACR, Terminology. The Judge must take such steps as are necessary to ensure that “the standards of fidelity and diligence” of the judicial office are maintained.