1996-21: Propriety of a judge accepting an appointment to the Citizens Advisory Council of his or her local school district.

Opinion No. 96-21

September 16, 1996 

TOPIC: Propriety of a judge accepting an appointment to the Citizens Advisory Council of his or her local school district. 

DIGEST: A judge may not accept appointment to a Citizens Advisory Council of his or her local school district. 

REFERENCES: Illinois Supreme Court Rule 65B and 65G of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 5 (145 Ill.2d R. 65); Committee Comments to Rule 65G; Illinois Judicial Ethics Committee Opinion Nos. 96-7, 95-10 and 95-13. 


The elected Board of Education for a local school district has provided for a seven member Advisory Council whose members the Board will appoint. The Board will refer matters to the Advisory Council for study and recommendation back to the Board, which will then make any decision it deems appropriate. A judge's service on the Board would not interfere with the judge's judicial duties. There is no remuneration for serving on the Advisory Council and no apparent likelihood of the Council's becoming involved in litigation. 


May a judge accept appointment to this school board Advisory Council? 


The judge may not accept such an appointment. 

Rule 65B provides that "A judge may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon the judge's impartiality or interfere with the performance of the judge's judicial duties. A judge may serve as...[a] non legal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization not conducted for the economic or political advantage of its members...", as long as the judge does not become involved in fund raising and it is not "likely that the organization will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the judge" and not likely the organization will "be regularly engaged in adversary proceedings in any court." 

Rule 65G provides that, "A judge should not accept appointment to a governmental committee, commission, or other position that is connected with issues of fact or policy on matters other than the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice." The Committee Comments to Rule 65G acknowledge that judges have performed valuable service in undertaking important extrajudicial appointments, however they conclude that in light of the need to protect judges from involvement in extrajudicial matters that may prove controversial, "Judges should not be expected or permitted to accept governmental appointments that could interfere with the effectiveness and independence of the judiciary." 

Since this Advisory Council is appointed by an elected school board, it is more properly considered a "governmental" body under Rule 65G than a civic body under Rule 65B. Thus, a judge's serving on this committee is different from a judge's serving on an elective parish school board, which is not prohibited. See IJEC Opinion No. 96-7. See also, IJEC Opinion No. 95-11 (judge may serve on board of not for profit organization that trains guardian ad litems) and IJEC No. 95-13 (judge may serve on board of cooperative apartment building in which judge lives under certain conditions). Since the school board would likely seek Advisory Council members' advice on matters of fact or policy, the provisions of Rule 65G preclude service by a judge on this governmental committee.