1995-18: Teaching subjects not strictly legal

 Opinion No. 95-18

October 12, 1995

TOPIC: Teaching subjects not strictly legal -- speech and debate.

DIGEST: A judge may act as a coach for the speech and debating team of a high school and a judge of a speech and debating contest, and may receive an honorarium for those activities.

REFERENCES: Illinois Supreme Court Rule 64A, of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 4 (145 Ill.2d R. 64); Illinois Supreme Court Rule 65 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 5 (145 Ill.2d R. 65); Illinois Supreme Court Rule 66 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 6 (145 Ill.2d R. 66).


Before being appointed to the bench, the judge had been acting as the coach for the speech and debating club and later the school paid a modest stipend for the judge to coach. In addition, the judge volunteers from time to time to act as judge in regional speech and debating contests. Since becoming a judge, the school and contest sponsors are impressed that they can have a real judge act as contest judge. There is no remuneration for judging contests. In the future the school would pay the judge an "honorarium" of $3,000 a semester. The work is after 5:30 P.M. and on weekends.


May the judge act as a coach and contest judge for the speech club after 5:30 p.m. and receive a stipend for this activity?


Illinois Supreme Court Rule 64A provides: "A judge may speak, write, lecture, teach, and participate in other activities concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice" provided that "the teaching or instructing will occur no earlier than 5:30 P.M.". Rule 65A provides: "A judge may write, lecture, teach, and speak on nonlegal subjects, and engage in the arts, sports, and other social and recreational activities if such avocational activities do not detract from the dignity of the judge's office or interfere with the performance of the judge's judicial duties." Rule 66 states that a judge "may receive an honorarium and reimbursement of expenses if the source of such payments does not give the appearance of influencing the judge in his or her judicial duties or otherwise give the appearance impropriety." That rule further states that "[a]n honorarium should not exceed a reasonable amount nor should it exceed what a person who is not a judge would receive for the same activity. The total honoraria received by a judge within a six-month period shall not exceed $3,000."

The coaching of a debate team is more avocational than law-related, and would thus fall under Rule 65A. The judge may engage in this activity and receive a reasonable honorarium not exceeding $3,000 every six months if this sum is comparable to what is received by other coaches

Although the prohibition against engaging in teaching activities before 5:30 P.M. is contained in Rule 64A, Rule 65A limits avocational activities to those which do not "interfere with the performance of the judge's judicial duties." It is reasonable to assume that any nonlegal teaching prior to 5:30 P.M. might interfere with judicial duties and should be avoided.