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South Carolina
JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT
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Advisory Opinions

ADVISORY COMMITTEE
ON STANDARDS OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT

OPINION NO. 03 - 2013

RE:  Propriety of a Probate Court judge serving on a local school advisory board.

FACTS

A Probate Court judge has been asked to serve on a local school advisory board.  Members of the local advisory board are nominated by School Board members and appointed by the full Board.  The local advisory board meets four times a year.  Local advisory board members serve as communication liaison between the school and the community, work to involve businesses and community members in the school, and serve on interview teams for new principals.  Board members are also to inform the school or district administration on pertinent personnel matters, provide the names of advisory board members from each high school to serve on a District Appeal Board to hear appeals of decisions made by the District’s hearing officers and make recommendations concerning District policies.  However, serving on the interview team for new principals or service on the District Appeals Board is not mandatory, and the Probate Judge could serve on the local advisory board without performing those duties.   The main duty of the Probate Judge would be to hear concerns or issues raised with the local elementary school and convey those concerns to the other  members of the local advisory board serving in the judge’s area (middle school, high school, and one additional elementary school).  The judge inquires as to whether such service is permissible.

CONCLUSION

A judge may not serve as a member of a local school advisory board as described above.

OPINION

Canon 4C(2) Rule 501 SCACR, prohibits a judge from accepting an appointment to a governmental committee or commission or other governmental position that is concerned with issues of fact or policy on any matters other than the law or the administration of justice.  Canon 4C(3).  In Opinion 24-2000,  we found that a full time city judge could not serve as a member of a county school board based on Canon 4C(2).   That opinion stated that service on the board of a public education system, unless it were a law school, was prohibited.  That logic applies here.  The advisory board, as it is appointed by the School Board, is a government or  quasi-government position.  Service on advisory board includes making recommendations concerning District policies,[1 and a judge should not accept a government position that deals with matter of policy other than those dealing with the law or the administration of justice. Canon 4C(2).  

Therefore, in conclusion, a judge may not serve on a local school advisory board.

 

s/_____________________________________
KEITH M. BABCOCK, ACTING CHAIRMAN

s/_____________________________________
JOCELYN B. CATE

s/_____________________________________
G. EDWARD WELMAKER

February 15, 2013


[1Even though the inquiring judge indicated that certain duties could be eliminated, the fact that the advisory board as whole makes policy recommendations requires that the judge not accept the appointment.  In addition, the advisory board may be better served by a member whose role is not limited by the Canons.