Monday, February 4, 2013
A recent judicial ethics opinion from South Carolina:
ON STANDARDS OF JUDICIAL
OPINION NO. 01 - 2013
RE: The propriety of a full-time magistrate being an active member of the FBI National Academy Associates, Inc.
A full-time magistrate is a retired law enforcement officer and graduate of the FBI National Academy. The magistrate has expressed interest in joining, as an active member, the FBI National Academy Associates, Inc. (“the Organization”). The Executive Board and general membership of the Organization are comprised entirely of active and retired law enforcement officers who are also graduates of the FBI Academy. The South Carolina Chapter of the Organization rotates monthly dinner meetings hosted by law enforcement agencies, including federal, state, and local agencies. While the Organization is a non-governmental agency, and not affiliated with the FBI, it does provide training and networking to members. The magistrate does not intend to take part in the training aspect, but would be focused on the social aspect only. The magistrate inquires into the propriety of joining this Organization.
A full-time magistrate should not become a member of the FBI National Academy Associates, Inc.
The Code of Judicial Conduct requires a judge to act in a manner “that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.” Canon 2A., Rule 501, SCACR. The commentary to Canon 2 explains that a “judge must avoid all impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.” Additionally, a judge should conduct his or her extra-curricular activities so that they do not “cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge.” Canon 4A(1).
Because the Organization’s members include active law enforcement officers, the magistrate’s membership in such a group (even if the magistrate’s participation is limited to the Organization’s social functions) could create the appearance of partiality and impropriety. Thus, membership in the Organization would violate the Canons.