Agencies | Online Services | Policies | Transparency.Arkansas.gov
Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Click Here To See The JEAC Topical Index
Click Here To View JEAC SummariesClick Here To Read JEAC's Procedural Rules

Click Here To Read JEAC's Commission Member's Biographies

Judicial Discpline and Disability Web Page
Arkansas Judicial Home Page

Official Homepage for the State of Arkansas

August 24, 1994

 

 

The Honorable Thomas E. Brown
Circuit Chancery Court
Eleventh Judicial District -West
Jefferson County Courthouse
P. O. Box 9260
Pine Bluff, AR 71611

RE: Advisory Opinion # 94-07

Dear Judge Brown:

Your letter of June 16, 1994 raises a question that we have dealt with in different factual settings twice before: whether a judge who is seeking re-election must disqualify himself when a party in a contested proceeding is represented by a declared candidate for the judge's position.

The governing standard is that a judge must avoid even the appearance of impropriety, Canon 2, and must disqualify himself if a judge's impartiality must reasonably be questioned, Canon 3(E)(1). Accordingly, Advisory Opinion 94-02 advised a municipal judge that he should recuse whenever an attorney who is opposing the judge for re-election should appear before the judge. Similarly, Opinion 94-05 concluded that a judge must act sua sponte on the issue of disqualification, and is not permitted to preside until a party objects.

However, the situation you pose if factually different and admittedly more difficult. As the Circuit/Chancery judge, you hear all the juvenile delinquency cases for Lincoln and Jefferson Counties. No other circuit judge or chancery judge hears juvenile matters. The delinquency cases are prosecuted by either the City Attorney (misdemeanors) or the Prosecuting Attorney (felonies). The Prosecuting Attorney handles all the Family In Need of Services (FINS) cases as well as probation revocation hearings for State cases and Contempt of Court cases. Such juvenile matters frequently include emergency probable cause detention hearings, detention continuation hearings after fourteen (14) days, and other State related matters.

The prosecutor has hired, on a part-time contract basis, a deputy prosecuting attorney to handle the felonies and some misdemeanors. This deputy prosecutor has announced her intention to run against you as an independent candidate in the November general election. You have indicated that she typically appears before you in 10-20 cases a week. Although the prosecutor does have other assistants, none of them typically represent the government in the delinquency proceedings.

Unlike other situations, here no other circuit judge or chancellor can easily be substituted for these juvenile matters. Special judges may not be feasible or appropriate for juvenile matters, particularly those extending over months or years. Unlike Opinion 94-02, a government attorney is the opposing candidate. Unlike 94-05, no other attorney can easily be substituted for the judicial challenger. Unlike Opinion 94-02, recusal would occur in a large number of cases.

Both the Code and the case law anticipate such a situation. The commentary to Canon 3(E)(1) reads:

By decisional law, the rule of necessity may override the rule of disqualification. For example, a judge might

be required to participate in judicial review of a judicial salary statute, or might be the only judge available

in a matter requiring immediate juridical action, such as a hearing on probable cause or a temporary restraining order. In the latter case, the judge must disclose on the record the basis for possible disqualification and use reasonable efforts to transfer the matter to another judge as soon as practicable.

Since 1430 courts have recognized the rule of necessity. See Shaman, Lubet & Alfini, Judicial Conduct & Ethics 5.03 (1990). According to the case law the doctrine of necessity provides that despite compelling reasons for disqualification, recusal is not required if no mechanism exists for transfer of the matter to another court or appointment of a substitute judicial officer. This doctrine has been recognized by the Arkansas Supreme Court. See Acme Brick Co. v. Missouri Pacific Railroad Co., 307 Ark. 363, 821 S.W. 2d 7 (1991); Wheatley v. Warren, 232 Ark 123, 334 S.W. 2d 880 (1960).

We are reluctant to examine the parameters of this rule. For example, we note that the United Stated Supreme Court does apply the rule to itself, but the Arkansas Supreme Court does not. However, the Arkansas Supreme Court need not resort to the rule for the simple reason that the Constitution allows the Governor to appoint special justices. See, for example, Johnson Timber Corp. v. Sturdivant, 295 Ark. 663-B, 758 S.W. 2d 415 (1988).

Accordingly, we conclude that your unique situation falls into the narrow group of situations governed by the Arule of necessity@. Our opinion does not necessarily mean that you can preside in every instance in which the judicial challenger appears before you. In ways that we cannot foresee, the campaign might be relevant to judicial proceedings; the parties might object; or, your own subjective evaluation of the situation might require recusal. As the Supreme Court concluded in Matthews v. Rodgers, 279 Ark. 328, 651 S.W. 2d 453 (1983), such matters are left to your judgment.

Sincerely,

 

Howard W. Brill

For the Committee

 

AConcurring Opinion of Edwin B. Alderson, Jr.

I concur with the excellent opinion of my distinguished colleague, Professor Brill. The opinion properly focuses on the Arule of necessity@ and the fact that it may not be feasible or appropriate for Special Judges in these cases. Nothing, however, is mentioned about the fact that the Prosecuting Attorney=s office has the obligation to provide a qualified person to handle the juvenile cases that come before Judge Brown. The person so appointed should not be one who will cause problems under the Code of Judicial Conduct and problems for the Court and the administration of justice. There are probably a number of ways to handle this matter, but the obvious solution is for the Prosecuting Attorney to provide a qualified person to handle the cases who is not tunning against Judge Brown. Surely the Prosecuting Attorney is aware of this situation. I think it is appropriate for Judge Brown to discuss this matter with the Prosecuting Attorney and ask that office to provide an immediate solution to the Problem.


Home | Summaries of Opinions and Full Opinions
Procedural Rules | Biographies of Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee
Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission  | Arkansas Judiciary Home Page
Arkansas Home Page