Commonwealth of Virginia Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinion 00-6
Date Issued: July 17, 2000
May a Judge Serve as a Member of the Virginia State Crime Commission?
May a judge serve as a member of the Virginia State Crime Commission?
A judge has asked if it would be proper for him to accept an appointment to the Virginia State Crime Commission.
Canon 4C(2) provides that
A judge shall not accept appointment to a governmental committee or commission or other governmental position that is concerned with issues of fact or policy on matters other than the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice.
In general, the Virginia State Crime Commission was established to study all areas and agencies dealing with crime and to make recommendations for improvements in any area relating to crime. Virginia Code § 9-127 provides:
The Commission shall have the duty and power to make studies and to gather information and data in order to accomplish its purpose and in connection with the faithful execution and effective enforcement of the laws of the Commonwealth with particular reference but not limited to organized crime and racketeering"
Virginia Code §9-130 further provides:
Whenever it shall appear to the Commission that there is reasonable cause, for official investigation or prosecution for a crime, or for the removal of a public officer for misconduct, the Commission shall refer the matter and such information as has come to its attention to the officials authorized and having the duty and authority to conduct investigations or to prosecute criminal offenses, or to remove such public officer, or to the judge of an appropriate court of record with recommendation that a special grand jury be convened.
The Commission is empowered to conduct private and public hearings and to examine witnesses in private. Virginia Code §9-134. The Commission is also required to keep the public informed as to the operations of organized crime, problems of criminal law enforcement in the Commonwealth and other activities of the Commission. Virginia Code §9-133.
Some of the objectives of the Crime Commission are to improve the law, the legal system and the administration of justice. If the Commission's activities were strictly limited to these three areas, a judge could serve. The Crime Commission, however, is vested with duties reaching far beyond these areas. It is required to gather information with particular reference to organized crime. It is to refer specific matters and information coming to its attention for further investigation or prosecution. It may recommend that a special grand jury be convened. The Commission's authority to conduct hearings and examine witnesses privately also suggests that one of its functions is to investigate specific criminal activity.
A judge's insight on such a Commission would be very valuable. Given the broad investigative and fact-finding mandates of the Crime Commission, a judge would find it extremely difficult to serve as one of its members and restrict his or her consideration to issues relating only to the improvement of the law, the legal system and the administration of justice. There are other ways for the Commission to obtain the views of the judiciary on those matters upon which judges may properly comment.
For these reasons, the Committee finds that it would be improper for a judge to serve as a member of the Virginia State Crime Commission.
Canons of Judicial Conduct, Canon 4C.
Virginia Code §§9-127, 9-130, 9-133 and 9-134
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: July 26, 2000