October 29, 1975
In your letter of September 18, 1975, you requested an advisory opinion form the Committee on Standards of Judicial Conduct as to the propriety of a circuit judge and his wife jointly with a practicing attorney and wife, giving a sizeable party entertaining mutual friends at a local club.
As an alternative, or second request, you ask, may a circuit judge and wife, with a businessman, not a lawyer, give such a party.
One member of the committee recused himself as he is from the same circuit as the requesting judge, Three members of the committee find no impropriety in a circuit judge and his wife , with a practicing attorney and wife, and/or businessman entertaining mutual friends at a party.
One member stated, "It is my personal feeling that a judge and his wife should avoid giving a 'sizeable party' with an active member of the local bar, and his wife, or with a business couple and a lawyer couple." Thus say this member, the judge will avoid a possible future accusation of favoritism.
The majority consensus, five members, is that a circuit judge may co-host a party with a practicing attorney and wife, and/or businessman at a local club. However, if the party is taking place at a public facility, and if the attorney or businessman regularly appears in court it could convey the impression that the lawyer or businessman occupies some special position with the judge, when of course such is not the case.
It is the appearance of impropriety that should be avoided. Canon 2B.
The committee feels it is important to emphasize that while the Code has created severe restrictions on the judge's business, social and civic activities, there is no restraint or restriction on a judge picking his own friends or associates, or on his entertaining socially or his co-entertaining socially with his friends and associates.
Under the specific circumstances presented in your letter, the Committee suggests that the judge's conscience should be an excellent guide as to his decision.
This committee feels it is important to stress the right of a judge to freely socialize and otherwise associate with his friends, whether they are judges, attorneys or businessmen.
With kind personal regards, I am
Gunter Stephenson, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Judicial Conduct
cc: All Committee members