April 9, 1979
The Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges acknowledges your recent inquiry. The question is whether a judge may accept a loan from a banking institution at a favorable rate, where the judge has a close, personal family ties with the chairman of the board of the bank. The question is further complicated by the fact that the chairman has a son who is a vice president of the bank, who was charged with 8 counts of violation of the drug abuse laws. The son pled guilty and was placed on two years probation - which has now been terminated. It must also be pointed out that the inquiring judge is assigned to the criminal division, but had no connection what that particular case.
Six of the Committee members felt that there was nothing wrong with the judge obtaining the loan under the circumstances, particularly in view of the fact that the criminal case is closed and that the inquiring judge never had any connection with it. Two of the Committee members were of the opinion that the inquiring judge should have no financial dealing with the individual on probation, but that the loan, if approved without the intervention of the probationer, appears to be proper. Several members noted that Canon 5C(4) provides that:
"A judge should not accept a gift, bequest, favor, or loan form anyone except as follows:
(d)... a loan from a lending institution in its regular course of business on the same terms generally available to persons who are not judges;..." (Emphasis supplied)
One member felt that if the loan is in compliance with these provisions the inquiring judge may accept it. However, two members of the Committee felt it would be inappropriate for him to accept the loan because of this Canon. Another of our members pointed out that:
"...in view of the fact that (the probationer) only received tow years probation for eight Felony Counts and that the probationer was terminated in less that a year, it has a potential for future criticism, suspicion and distrust by the public and all concerned."
James T. Carlisle, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Participating members: Judges Booth, Carlisle, Hewitt, Haverfield, Letts, O'Connell, Richardson, Stephenson, Turner and Samuel J. Powers, Attorney