September 15, 1988

The Ethics Advisory Committee has been asked for its opinion on these questions: Whether a judge may teach a course on the Utah Code and proper courtroom demeanor and testimony to law enforcement officers, and whether the judge may receive compensation from the Division of Peace Officer Standards for teaching the course.

It is the committee's opinion that, in this particular fact situation, a judge is prohibited from teaching the class. Although the Code not only permits, but encourages, judges to teach about the law, the legal system and the administration of justice, this particular activity is prohibited due to the presence of three factors. First, the judge is not teaching a course that will be attended by representatives from all components of the criminal justice system; instead the course will be attended by peace officers only. While the purpose of such a course is commendable, it is intended to primarily serve the needs of peace officers and law enforcement agencies and is not devoted to improvement of the legal system overall. Because the course is limited to the improvement of a single adversarial component of the justice system, teaching such a course may create the appearance of impropriety when peace officers appear in the judge's court. Second, in a small rural community such as the one involved in this question, the judge is likely to come in contact with these same officers on a regular basis in the courtroom. Finally, the subject matter of the course itself raises questions of  propriety. The judge would essentially be instructing officers on how to appear in court and convince the judge that they are correct. This could create the impression that the officers are in a special position of influence with the judge.

Canon 4 of the Code of Judicial Conduct clearly permits judges to teach classes concerning the law. Specifically, that Canon provides:

A judge, subject to the proper performance of his judicial duties, may engage in the following quasi-judicial activities, if in doing so the judge does not cast doubt on the capacity to decide impartially any issue that may he involved in matters before the court:

(A) A judge may speak, write, lecture, teach, and participate in other activities concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice. (Emphasis added.)

By teaching peace officers about courtroom testimony and demeanor, however, the judge runs the risk of casting doubt on his or her capacity to impartially decide an issue involving the courtroom testimony of one of the peace officers who had taken the judge's class.

Canon 4 does not require the judge to actually be partial to a party, but rather prohibits any activities which might cast doubt on the judge's impartiality.

Canon 2 provides that a judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities and, specifically, a judge should not allow relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment and should not convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position of influence.

Teaching peace officers about courtroom testimony and demeanor may create the appearance of impropriety or convey the impression that peace officers are in a position of special influence with the judge.

Similarly, being compensated for teaching the course would be prohibited because payment would come from the law enforcement agency responsible for training peace officers.

Canon 5C provides that a judge should refrain from financial dealings "that tend to reflect adversely on impartiality, interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties, exploit the judicial position, or involve the judge in frequent transactions with lawyers or persons likely to come before the court on which the judge serves. " Accepting payment from a law enforcement agency may reflect adversely on the judge's impartiality and may involve the judge in financial transactions with a law enforcement agency whose employees are likely to appear before the court. Although the frequency of these transactions is not evident from the fact situation presented, even occasional financial transactions with a law enforcement agency may reflect adversely on the judge's impartiality. In addition, the fact that the judge holds court in a rural area increases the risk that such transactions would be frequent.

Canon 6 permits a judge to receive compensation and reimbursement of expenses for the quasijudicial and extra-judicial activities permitted by the Code,so long as the source of the payments does not give the appearance of influencing the judge in the performance of judicial duties or otherwise give the appearance of impropriety. Again, instruction to law enforcement officers on proper courtroom demeanor and testimony or the payment of compensation from a law enforcement agency may create the appearance of impropriety or give the impression that law enforcement officers are in a special position of influence with the judge.

Accordingly, given the language contained in the Code of Judicial Conduct, it is the committee's opinion that a judge who hears the testimony of peace officers in the course of his or her judicial duties should not teach and be compensated for teaching a class whose purpose is to instruct peace officers on the Utah Code and on proper courtroom testimony and demeanor.