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December 20, 1999

 

Honorable Joyce Williams Warren
Circuit/Chancery Judge
3001 West Roosevelt - 2nd Floor
Little Rock, Arkansas 72204

Re: Advisory Opinion # 96-01

Dear Judge Warren:

In your letter of February 7, 1996, you put the following question to the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee whether you are permitted to serve on a Policy and Planning Board. These boards are required by the Division of Youth Services of Department of Human Services. Each board will have as many as 21 members, representing a cross section of the judicial district. The board, which will be an incorporated entity or will designate a purchasing entity that will contract for funds, will determine the needed services, the organizations that will provide the services, and the amount of money to be awarded. The services will be provided to delinquents, families in need of services and at risk juveniles.

Under state law a juvenile judge has the authority to commit a juvenile to DYS. DYS, not the judge, determines where the juvenile is placed, what services are rendered, and when the juvenile is released. Similarly, in the case of a juvenile who is in a family in need of services, the judge orders specified services, but DYS determines where the juvenile will go for the services.

Judges are to avoid the appearance of impropriety in all their activities. Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Judges are to avoid extra-judicial activities that would cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge. Canon 4A. However, judges may serves as officers and advisors of organizations or governmental agencies devoted to the legal system or the administration of justice. Canon 4C(3). As constituted, the Policy and Planning Board is such a quasi-governmental agency that is devoted to the administration of justice.

The Policy and Planning Board will have a role in determining services. But the vital link connecting a particular juvenile and a particular service organization is determined by DYS. Accordingly, we conclude that service on the planning board would not cast reasonable doubt on judicial impartiality and is not barred by the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Although it may be appropriate for a judge to occasionally recuse from decision to be made by the Policy and Planning Board, the Code does not mandate that a judge dissociate herself entirely from service on such a Board. Particularly given the lengthy and intricate nature of juvenile matters, judicial participation in other aspects of the juvenile justice system is appropriate.

Sincerely,

 

Howard W. Brill

For the Committee

Edwin Alderson and Steele Hays concur.

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