ON STANDARDS OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT
OPINION NO. 3-2008
RE: Propriety of a circuit court judge employing the judge’s nephew as a law clerk.
A circuit court judge has inquired as to the propriety of employing the judge’s nephew as a law clerk.
A circuit court judge may employ the judge’s nephew as a law clerk.
The Code of Judicial Conduct does not prohibit the hiring of family members. While a judge must uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary (Canon 1) and avoid the appearance of impropriety (Canon 2), this Committee is of the opinion is that neither of these two Canons are implicated simply because the judge wishes to hire a qualified law clerk that is also the judge’s nephew. Likewise, the State Ethics Rules do not prohibit such hiring, as its provisions are limited to family members which are defined as:
(a) the spouse, parent, brother, sister, child, mother-in-law, father-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, grandparent, or grandchild;
(b) a member of the individual's immediate family.
S.C. Code § 8-136-100 (15). Since a nephew is not included in that definition, the judge may hire the nephew as a law clerk.
A. CAMDEN LEWIS, CHAIRMAN
JAMES A. SPRUILL, III
G. EDWARD WELMAKER