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Connecticut Committee on Judicial Ethics
Informal Opinion Summaries

2012-10 (June 1, 2012)
Membership
Rules 1.2, 3.1 & 3.7
 
Issue: May a Judicial Official join as a member of the Connecticut chapter of a national ethnic bar association?

Additional Facts: The Connecticut chapter is a non-profit, non-partisan corporation created to address the concerns of the particular ethnic legal community and to improve the administration of justice. The national organization communicates the views of its members to state and federal officials on matters of common concern, including the impact of legislation, judicial selections, and improvement of the administration of justice. The national organization also conducts legal seminars, furnishes law students with financial aid, and promotes international legal exchanges. Membership in the national bar association is limited to lawyers who by birth or extraction, or by marriage are related to a person who by birth or extraction is from the particular ethnic group, or to any other lawyer who supports the purposes and objectives of the organization. There is no indication on the application for membership in the Connecticut chapter that one must belong to a particular ethnic group, although there is a reference to those who share a common heritage. Furthermore, unlike with respect to JE 2011-09, there is no indication that the Connecticut chapter or the national organization limits membership to a certain sex, age, group, or to individuals who subscribe to a particular religious belief. A search of the Connecticut Judicial Branch website did not reveal any cases currently or in the recent past in which the Connecticut chapter or the national organization was a party.

Response: Rule 1.2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct provides that a judge “shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.” Rule 3.1 of the Code of Judicial Conduct provides that subject to certain conditions a judge “may engage in extrajudicial activities except as prohibited by law.” Similarly, Rule 3.7(a) provides that a judge may participate in activities sponsored by organizations concerned with the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice and enumerates several permitted activities.

Based upon the information provided, the Judicial Official may join as a member of the local ethnic bar association, but should regularly reexamine the activities and rules of the association to determine whether it is proper for the Judicial Official to continue his or her relationship with it and should carefully consider whether the Judicial Official’s identification with or involvement in specific programs or activities of the association may undermine confidence in the Judicial Official’s independence, integrity and impartiality.

Committee on Judicial Ethics

 


 

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