ON STANDARDS OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT
OPINION NO. 10 - 2013
RE :Propriety of a part-time municipal judge accepting appointments as part-time probate judge and full-time hearing officer.
A part-time municipal judge inquires into the propriety of accepting offers to serve as a part-time probate judge and a full-time hearing officer for a state agency. In addition, the judge also serves as a Judge Advocate in the Army Guard/Reserve and inquires as to whether a conflict would arise for a part-time probate judge who also drafts wills for soldiers living in the judge’s jurisdiction. If the judge is allowed to accept the other offers, the judge would not engage in the practice of law, other than the drafting of soldiers’ wills.
The Code of Judicial Conduct does not prohibit the part-time municipal judge from accepting other employment. However, this Committee does not give opinions on dual office-holding.
Part-time judges are permitted to practice law, subject to several limitations under the Code of Judicial Conduct. In addition, in multiple opinions, we have determined that part-time municipal judges may have other employment or business ventures. See, e.g., Op. Nos. 18-1998; 23-1998. Thus, the Code of Judicial Conduct does not prohibit a part-time municipal judge from accepting other employment.
However, part-time judges are subject to other statutory rules, including those prohibiting dual office-holding. This Committee does not provide opinions on dual office-holding. That inquiry must be directed to the South Carolina Attorney General. The Committee also declines to offer an opinion as to whether a probate judge may prepare wills for members of the Armed Services at this point, as the Attorney General must first determine the dual office-holding issue.
South Carolina Constitution, Article VI § 3 prohibits dual office-holding. “The position of part-time municipal judge constitutes an office in the constitutional sense, and the acceptance of a second office would violate the constitutional restriction on dual office-holding.” 1974-75 Op Att’y Gen, No 4173, pg. 230. The issue then is whether the position of hearing officer for a state agency or service as a part-time probate judge would also be considered an “office.”
October 22, 2013