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January 18, 2001


Alderman Pamela Redfern
West Fork City Council
P. O. Box 174
West Fork, AR 72774

The Hon. Clinton K. (Casey) Jones
West Fork Municipal Judge
P. O. Box 854
West Fork, Arkansas 72774

Re: JEAC Opinion No. 2000-11

Dear Ms. Redfern and Judge Jones:

Prior to the runoff election for West Fork Municipal Judge, Ms. Redfern requested our opinion as to whether Clinton K. (Casey) Jones (then one of the candidates in the runoff) would have a conflict of interest by being both a Fayetteville City Prosecutor and West Fork Municipal Judge. Judge Jones was in fact elected by the voters to the position of Municipal Judge and at the request of the Executive Director, Judge Jones responded to Ms. Redfern's letter and provided additional information.

Canon 4G of the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits the practice of law by a judge in any of the courts of this State. This provision states the ideal and were it not for financial and practical considerations it would be much preferable if this provision applied to all judges including Municipal Judges. Recognizing that many Municipal Judge offices are under Arkansas law classified as part-time judicial offices an exemption appears in Section B of the Application section of the Code from compliance with Canon 4G. The position of West Fork Municipal Judge is a continuing part-time judicial office and accordingly under Arkansas law and the Code the West Fork Municipal Judge may practice law. As we stated in our Opinion 98-02
"...while the Code stops short of a categorical prohibition of the practice of law by part-time judges, it is clear that restraint and caution are called for. Because the guidelines are necessarily indistinct, finding the dividing line is problematic."

Neither Arkansas law nor the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits a person who practices law as an assistant city attorney from one city from being a part-time municipal judge in another city. That person, however, should be very sensitive to the fact that conflicts can and will occur and should be mindful of numerous provisions of the Code that would be applicable. We emphasize that a continuing part-time municipal judge must make the judicial office first in service and priority.

Sincerely,

Edwin Alderson
For the Committee


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