434 P.3d 13 (Okla.Jud.Eth. 2018), 2018-5, Judicial Ethics Opinion 2018-5

Docket Nº:2018-5
Citation:434 P.3d 13
Judge Panel:The Honorable April Sellers White, (Retired), Judicial Ethics Advisory Panel Member, The Honorable Edward C. Cunningham, (Retired), Judicial Ethics Advisory Panel Chair, The Honorable William C. Hetherington, (Retired), Judicial Ethics Advisory Panel Member, The Honorable Allen McCall, (Retired),...
Case Date:September 17, 2018
Court:Oklahoma Judicial Ethics Advisory Panel

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434 P.3d 13 (Okla.Jud.Eth. 2018)


No. 2018-5

Judicial Ethics Advisory Panel of Oklahoma

September 17, 2018

Editorial Note:

The Opinions of the Ethics Advisory Panel are advisory only and can be relied by the Council on Judicial Complaints while recommending discipline of a Judge or a Judicial Candidate and not binding on the Council or Courts in the exercise of their judicial discipline responsibilities.

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[ ¶1] FACTS

A Special Judge has interest in applying for an open position as a Supreme Court Justice for the Cherokee Nation, while maintaining her position as a Special Judge. This would result in a "dual" judge role.


The Judge inquires of this panel "if there are any ethical concerns" in her application for the position.

[ ¶3] ANSWER

Yes. The Oklahoma Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits any judge from holding a tribal judicial position concurrently with the judge’s employment as a district court judge for the State of Oklahoma, unless the judge has the express approval of the Oklahoma Supreme Court.


From a strictly ethical standpoint, Canon 3, Oklahoma Code of Judicial Conduct, Rule 3.1, states that a judge shall not: (A) Participate in activities that will interfere with the proper performance of the judge’s judicial duties.

[ ¶5] While the Judge requesting this opinion states that her duties as a tribal justice could be performed on her "personal time", even minimal time spent away from her employment as a special judge while she functions as a tribal justice, could be a violation of this section.

[¶6] Canon 4, Rule 3.4 is dispositive on this issue. While the rule specifically addresses appointments to "governmental positions" and does not specifically mention judicial appointments, the catch-all phrase, "or the judge has specific approval of the Supreme Court" seems to cover any ambiguities that arise outside the plain language of Rule 3.4. Thus permission of the Supreme Court would be required before a judge could make application for employment as a tribal judge or justice.


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