December 20, 1999
Honorable Joyce Williams Warren
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
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.
Howard W. Brill
For the Committee
Edwin Alderson and Steele Hays concur.