ON STANDARDS OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT
OPINION NO. 3 - 2014
RE : Propriety of a part-time municipal judge accepting employment as a Safety and Risk Management Coordinator with a county school district.
A part-time municipal judge1 is considering accepting employment as a Safety and Risk Management Coordinator with a county school district. The position is non-sworn and administrative in nature, but would require some interaction with law enforcement officers who provide security in the schools. The municipal jurisdiction the judge serves in has no schools within its town limits and none of the town’s police officers are employed in any capacity by the county school district.
A part-time municipal judge may accept employment with a county school district where the municipality in which the judge serves has no schools and none of the municipality’s police officers are employed by the school district.
A part-time municipal judge falls into the category of a “part-time judge” for purposes of the Code of Judicial Conduct. As such, the Code excepts them from certain prohibitions of the Canons. Rule 501, Application of the Code of Judicial Conduct (D). Though part-time judges are not prohibited from employment, such employment still must be in accord with the general mandates applicable to all judges, whether full-time or part-time. Judges must always uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary at all times, and judges should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of their activities. S.C.A.C.R. 501, Canon 1 and Canon 2. A judge shall conduct all of the judge’s extra-judicial activities so that they do not (1) cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge, (2) demean the judicial office, or (3) interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties. Rule 501 Canon 4(A), SCACR.
Here, the municipal judge’s employment as a Safety and Risk Management Coordinator with a county school district would not demean the judicial office or create the risk of partiality. There is no risk of reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge because, while the judge may have with some interaction with law enforcement officers who provide security to the school, none of the officers are employed by the municipality in which the judge serves. Furthermore, there are no schools within the municipality in which the judge serves, so none of the schools in the district would appear in court before the municipal judge. Thus, the school district employment of a part-time municipal judge, under these circumstances, does not violate the Code of Judicial Conduct.
March 5, 2014