February 18, 1994
Judge Don Huffman
Benton County Courthouse
Re: Advisory Opinion 94-01
Dear Judge Huffman:
Your letter of January 21, 1994 asks to what extent you are permitted to participate in an
upcoming bond election in which the voters of Benton County will decide whether to
increase the sales tax to pay for a new courthouse and jail.
1) A judge is to manage extra-judicial activities so
that reasonable doubt is not cast upon judicial impartiality. Canon 4A. A judge may appear
at a public hearing and may consult with executive officials on matters concerning the
administration of justice. Canon 4C. The prohibition against political activity by judges
does not extend to measures involving the legal system or the administration of justice.
Canon 5D. In those areas the judge is in a unique position to contribute to public debate
and discussion. See Commentary to Canon 4B.
Issues involving courthouses and related funding
have traditionally been included within the scope of "the administration of
justice." See In Re Chambliss, 516 So. 2d 506 (Mississippi 1987) (judge may
participate in bond election when related to the administration of justice); Matter of
Staples, 719 P. 2d 559 (Washington 1986) (judge who took a vocal stand on
controversial issues involving movement of county seat did not violate judicial ethics).
Accordingly, we conclude that the Code does not prohibit you from taking a public stand
that is in favor of, opposed to, or indifferent to the proposed sales tax.
2) Likewise we conclude that the Code does not
prohibit you from being a member of a committee formed to promote passage of the sales
tax. Canon 4C (3) permits you to serve as a member or officer of an organization devoted
to the administration of justice. But the Canon also limits your involvement in any fund
raising activities of the committee.
Howard W. Brill
Professor of Law For the Committee