State Bar of Texas Judicial Section, Committee on Judicial Ethics

Ethics Opinion Number 294 ( 2009 )
FACTS: A local trial lawyers association has established a judicial liaison program. Under the program, the association will have one of its members assigned to each civil court in the county to act as the association’s liaison for that court. The duties of the liaison include:
  1. Introducing himself or herself to the judge and court coordinator and providing personal contact information;
  2. Learning the court’s unique rules and procedures and acting as a resource for other association members;
  3. Investigation of any complaint by the judge, court coordinator or court staff about any member of the association and investigation of any concern or issue that the association has about the court;
  4. Endeavor to meet personally with the judge at least every 60 days;
  5. Attend all association functions that the judge attends and personally invite the judge to the appropriate association functions; and
  6. Update the Board of the association regarding the court.

The program specifically requires liaisons to act within the bounds of judicial ethics as prescribed by the Code of Judicial Conduct and to comply with all ethical guidelines regarding communications with the court.  

QUESTION: May a judge participate in this program?
ANSWER: No. A judge’s participation in the program as described is not permitted by the Code of Judicial Conduct. Canon 2 A. provides that a judge “should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality (emphasis added) of the judiciary.” Canon 2 B. provides that a judge shall not “convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge.”
A judge’s participation in the program would join the judge and a faction of the bar in such a close relationship that the judge could not avoid the public appearance that Canon 2 A. and Canon 2 B. expressly prohibit.