P. O. Box 500
Harrisburg, AR 72432
Chancellor, 1st Division
P. O. Box 1404
Jonesboro, AR 72403
L R Municipal Court, 2nd Division
600 W. Markham Street
Little Rock, AR 72201
Opinion # 2001-02
Vanausdall, Templeton and Fleming:
asked about the propriety of being a "Judicial Fellow"
of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. ATLA's letter
to you, which you provided us, asks you to "accept recognition
by ATLA as a Judicial Fellow." ATLA offers you a complimentary
subscription to Trial magazine and complimentary registration
for ATLA conventions.
has previously dealt with this issue in Advisory Opinions 99-04
and 99-07. We conclude that a full-time judge could not be a
member of ATLA or any other organization that outwardly favors
one side or consistently takes one side in legal issues. To
do so would violate the prohibition against the "appearance
of impropriety" contained in Canon 2 and might raise doubt
on the judge's ability to decide impartiality as required by
Canon 4. The prohibition applies regardless of whether membership
dues are required.
recognizes our concerns. Its closing paragraph states that "several
supreme courts have ruled it unethical for judges to join organizations
that represent a single side in legal disputes." However,
we see no difference in being a member of ATLA, a "Judicial
Fellow of ATLA", or any other appellation that ATLA may
conceive. Such an outward association does not encourage the
integrity and independence of the judiciary.
again that any judge may receive free publications from ATLA,
may accept complimentary registration at ATLA conventions, and
may speak at ATLA programs. But public and ongoing identification
as a member, fellow, or supporter, no matter what phrase is
used, is inappropriate.
for the Committee