1997-03: Propriety of judge accepting invitation to serve as a member of local task force on sexual assault.

Opinion No. 97-3
January 13, 1997

TOPIC: Propriety of judge accepting invitation to serve as a member of local task force on sexual assault.

DIGEST: Judge may not serve as a member of local task force on sexual assault.

REFERENCES: Illinois Supreme Court Rule 65B of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 5 (145 Ill.2d R. 65); Committee Commentary to Rule 65; Illinois Judicial Ethics Committee Opinion No. 96-21.

Staff members from a civic organization have invited a judge to serve on their sexual assault task force. The task force has set up a program to assist sexual assault victims by providing a timely health exam and assessment, the collection of forensic evidence for better prosecution of offenders, and follow up court testimony. The judge has been asked to become involved in developing this program.


May a judge serve as a member of a sexual assault task force?

The judge may not accept the invitation to serve on this task force.
Supreme Court Rule 65B governs the permissible scope of judicial officer's extrajudicial activities. Rule 65B states:
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 ...
(1) A judge should not serve if it is likely that the organization will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the judge or will be regularly engaged in adversary proceedings in any court.

The Committee Comments to Rule 65 state that the complete separation of a judge from extrajudicial activities is neither possible nor wise; he or she should not become isolated from the society in which he or she lives. In this instance, however, a judge should refrain from accepting the invitation to join the task force.

The task force in this fact situation is committed to service of persons who have been subjected to sexual assault. The task force provides medical care and counseling; however, it also provides aid to law enforcement agencies. The task force has issued a mission statement that outlines its goals. One of the goals is to provide a source of mutual aid to the staff and volunteers of all social and law enforcement agencies. The statement goes on to list benefits to the police and state's attorney's office as well as achieving an increase in successful apprehension and prosecution of rapists. The task force will provide witnesses who will testify directly as an expert witness or as to the appearance of the victim when arriving at the shelter. Task force members will testify at the request of the prosecutor, never the accused. Task force members will "follow case[s] through the court system working closely with law enforcement and prosecution to ensure successful prosecution of those guilty of sexual assault."
In light of these facts, a judge's affiliation with the task force may "reflect adversely upon his or her impartiality." S.Ct.Rule 65B. Since members of the task force will testify in court against the victim's offender, they "will be regularly engaged in adversary proceedings." S.Ct.Rule 65B(l).
The most appropriate course of action would be for the judge to decline the invitation to join this task force.