Informal Opinion 97-3
May 22, 1997

The Ethics Advisory Committee has been asked for its opinion on whether a judge may participate in a nationally renowned non-profit musical education and performance organization.

The organization is "committed to advancing the musical art form of barbershop harmony through education and performances."(1) Members are required to travel throughout the country for performances and workshops. The required travel is irregular, involving, on average, one weekday per month.

Canon 4A states that "a judge shall conduct 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; (3) interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties; or (4) exploit the judge's judicial position." The Committee believes that a judge's participation in the organization is permitted under the Code. The participation will not affect the public's perception of the judge's ability to perform the judge's duties, nor subject the judge to any apparent improper influences. The kind of music favored by the organization suggests participation will not demean the judge's office. The judge should ensure that weekday absences for organization activities, along with all other absences, do not exceed reasonable vacation time provided for judges.

As with other extra-judicial activities, the judge should use caution when participating in program activities to ensure that other sections of the Code are not impinged. For example, the judge should not participate in fund raising activities on behalf of the organization, nor use judicial staff for typing newsletters or correspondence to other organization members. Similarly, any photocopying, fax, and long distance charges incurred on office equipment for the benefit of the organization should be reimbursed in accordance with applicable policies.


1. From the organization's mission statement as stated on its "web" page.