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April 20, 1999

 

 

Honorable Rice Van Ausdall
Circuit/Chancery Judge
P.O. Box 500
Harrisburg, Arkansas 72432

RE: Advisory Opinion # 99-04

Dear Judge Van Ausdall:

You have asked the Committee whether, as Circuit/Chancery judge, it is permissible for you to maintain membership in the American Trial Lawyers Association and in the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association, both of which were extended to you on a complimentary basis, that is, without the yearly membership fee of $100.

Canon 2A provides in part:

A. A judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

Canon 4A provides:

A JUDGE SHALL SO CONDUCT THE JUDGE'S EXTRA-JUDICIAL ACTIVITIES AS TO MINIMIZE THE RISK OF CONFLICT WITH JUDICIAL OBLIGATIONS

A. Extra-juridical Activities in General. 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.

In the opinion of the Committee, membership in professional organizations which are dedicated to promoting the interests of either the plaintiffs' bar or the defendants' bar and its clientele gives an appearance of impropriety by calling into question the judge's ability to preside in certain cases with unquestionable impartiality. We note that in other jurisdictions (Arizona, Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana) judicial advisory committees have reached the same conclusions.

For the reasons stated, the Committee believes it would be inappropriate for you to maintain memberships in these associations during your judicial tenure.

Yours very truly,

 

Steele Hays

For the Committee

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