ON STANDARDS OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT
OPINION NO. 6-2008
RE: The propriety of a part-time municipal judge participating as a member of a parents' group to express certain concerns to the school district.
A part-time municipal judge is also a parent of an elementary school-aged child. The parents of the children in the elementary school are concerned with a recently administered test and plan to form a group to express their views and concerns to the school district. The part-time judge inquires into the propriety of acting as a member of such group. The judge also asks whether the judge could be fired by the council that appointed the judge for such participation.
A part-time municipal judge may join a parents' group to express concerns to the school district.
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. The Commentary to Canon 4.A. states that "Complete separation of a judge from extra-judicial activities is neither poissible nor wise; a judge should not become isolated from the community in which the judge lives."
As a parent, the judge has an interest in the school district's administration of tests to the children in the school. Thus, this Committee is of the opinion that a judge's participation as a parent in a group expressing concerns to the school district does not cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartiually or demean the judicial office. In addition, there is no indication that participation in the group will require a significant amount of time or otherwise interfere with the performance of the judge's duties. Thus, the inquiring judge may participate as a member of a parents' group to address concerns with the local school district. This Committee expresses no opinion, however, on whether or not such participation may be grounds for removal or firing of the judge.