ON STANDARDS OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT
OPINION NO. 5 - 2012
RE: Propriety of circuit court judges, who preside at drug court, to attend a conference for drug court and other types of remedial courts, where the conference will be paid for by drug court fees.
A county solicitor has requested or suggested that the local circuit court judges who preside in drug court attend a national training conference for drug court and other types of remedial courts. The attendance fees for the judges’ attendance at the conference would come from the county’s drug court fees, not the solicitor’s operating budget. A circuit court judge inquires into the propriety of attending a conference under these circumstances.
A circuit court judge may attend a national training conference for drug court where the attendance fees are paid for by the drug court.
A judge must uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary. Canon 1, SCACR (Supp. 1998). Canon 2 further states that a judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. However, However, Canon 4D allows a judge to engage in extra-judicial activities concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice.
Here, the national training conference on drug courts and other -- courts is clearly an activity concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice. The fees for the judges’ attendance will be paid for by the drug court itself, and not from an individual, agency, or entity that might appear before the judge thereby, causing a conflict of interest. Thus, unlike previous opinions addressing related inquiries, there is no conflict of interest or appearance of impropriety. Therefore, the judges may attend the conference as long as their attendance fees are paid for by the drug court.
February 29, 2012
See, e.g., Opinion No. 12-1999 (family court judge should not attend training seminar paid for organization that appeared in Family Court with victims of domestic abuse); (magistrate should not attend program funded by the Department of Justice, where funds for the magistrate to attend were made available through the local Safe Homes agency and the county Department of Public Safety).