Informal Opinion 08-1

February 25, 2008


A judge has asked whether the judge may teach a class at a local university. The class will be four days a week, for an hour and twenty minutes each day. The time will mostly be during lunch breaks.


The judge may teach the class because the time away from regular judicial duties is not unreasonable.


The judge has been asked by a local university to teach a business law class. The class will be taught Monday through Thursday of each week and the class time will be for one hour and twenty minutes. The class will last for about seven weeks. The class will be scheduled at a time when the judge can use lunch breaks to teach the class.

In Informal Opinion 90-1, the Ethics Advisory Committee discussed whether a judge could teach a business law class at a university four days a week, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. With travel time, the class apparently would have required the judge to be away from judicial duties for a minimum of six hours per week. The Ethics Advisory Committee determined that the judge could not teach the class because the six hours per week would interfere with the performance of judicial duties. The issue in this situation is whether the class will unreasonably interfere with judicial duties when the class will be taught mostly during lunch hours.

Canon 3A states that the �judicial duties of a full-time judge take precedence over all the judge�s other activities.� Canon 4B permits a judge to �speak, write, lecture, teach and participate in other extra-judicial activities concerning the law, the legal system, the administration of justice and non-legal topics subject to the requirements of this code.� In Informal Opinion 90-1, the committee stated that �a judge must carefully avoid extra-judicial commitments of such magnitude that they detract from the time the judge is able to devote to judicial duties. In achieving that balance, a judge must consider the fact that the performance of judicial duties not only requires conducting scheduled hearings, but also requires that the judge be available during regular court hours to issue warrants, set bail and deal with other legal issues as they arise.�

In Informal Opinion 98-8, on performing marriages, the committee declared that regular court hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. In that opinion, the committee stated that a judge could not receive compensation for performing a marriage ceremony during lunch hours because the judge is still on duty as a judge. Based on this opinion, there is a legitimate question about whether a judge can perform other activities during a lunch hour, without those activities being considered interference with judicial duties. The committee determines that a judge can conduct other activities during a lunch hour without those being considered interference with judicial duties. Although there are no set hours for judges to take lunch and other breaks, a judge is clearly entitled to take lunch time and an hour of lunch time is not unreasonable.

Because a judge can perform other activities during a lunch break, without those activities interfering with judicial duties, the question is whether the additional 20 minutes a day unreasonably interferes with judicial duties. The committee is of the opinion that the extra 20 minutes a day does not unreasonably interfere with judicial duties. Unlike Informal Opinion 90-1, in which the judge would have been teaching in the middle of the afternoon four days a week, which would be disruptive to a judge�s calendar, the judge will be teaching at the beginning or end of lunch breaks and there will be minimal interruption with judicial duties. The total amount of time away from regular judicial duties during a week amounts to a little over a hour and one-half. The committee determines that this amount of time is not unreasonable. The time is not of a sufficient magnitude as to detract from judicial duties.