Commonwealth of Virginia Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinion 99-1
Date Issued: July 6, 1999
Substitute Judges Listing Position in Biographical Information
1. May a substitute judge who also practices law (or the firm in which he or she practices) include in his or her biographical information or firm description contained on an Internet web page or in other public communications the fact that the lawyer currently serves as a substitute judge?
An inquiry has been made as to whether substitute judges or the law firms in which they practice may list on Internet web pages in the description of the firm or the biographical sketch of the lawyer the fact that a lawyer in the firm currently serves as a substitute judge. The inquiry has also arisen in terms of listing in public communications generally, e.g., listing in legal or other periodicals of general circulation.
Canon 2 (B) provides, in part, as follows: A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others; nor shall a judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge. While the inquiry's proposed reference to serving as a substitute judge neither identifies the specific court nor highlights the part-time judicial position in any manner, it is the opinion of the Committee that a reference to a part-time judicial position poses an unacceptable risk that the lawyer serving in such a role (or the lawyer's firm) will be perceived to have influence with the courts and thereby be more effective in performing legal services because of such influence. The Committee concludes that the value to the lawyer (or the lawyer's firm) of being able to cite a part-time judicial experience as evidence of community involvement is outweighed by the risk of the perception by prospective clients and others that the lawyer has special influence with the courts. The proposed conduct is therefore improper.
Canons of Judicial Conduct, Canon 2 (B).
All opinions shall be advisory only, and no opinion shall be binding on the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission or the Supreme Court in the exercise of its judicial discipline responsibilities. However, the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission and the Supreme Court may in their discretion consider compliance with an advisory opinion by the requesting individual to be evidence of a good faith effort to comply with the Canons of Judicial Conduct provided that compliance with an opinion issued to one judge shall not be considered evidence of good faith of another judge unless the underlying facts are substantially the same. Order of the Supreme Court of Virginia entered January 5, 1999.
This page last modified: October 20, 1999