1994-02: Judge as a Legal Advisor

Opinion No. 94-2

January 19, 1994

TOPIC: A judge as a legal advisor.

DIGEST: A judge is precluded from practicing law. Legal counseling to any group, including social organizations, constitutes the practice of law.

REFERENCES: Illinois Supreme Court Rules 65B and 65F of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 5 (145 Ill.2d R. 65).


A judge is a member of a nautical group, which asks him to be a legal advisor.


Can a judge engage in the practice of law on a noncompensated basis?


Illinois Supreme Court Rule 65F of the Code of Judicial Conduct requires: "A judge should not practice law." Practicing law is not restricted to those legal activities which result in compensation. The provision of legal services on a pro bono basis is the practice of law. Black's Law Dictionary defines the "practice of law" as "The rendition of services requiring the knowledge and the application of legal principles and technique to serve the interests of another with his consent...An attorney engages in the 'practice of law' by...counseling clients in legal matters."

Giving legal advice to members of a fraternal organization constitutes the practice of law. A judge is prohibited from such activities. Furthermore, Illinois Supreme Court Rule 65B explicitly restricts the advisory positions which a judge may assume in various organizations to "nonlegal" advisory positions.