1996-23: Duty of Chief Judge to take action when a judge he or she supervises is arrested for DUI.

Opinion No. 96-23
September 16, 1996

TOPIC: Duty of Chief Judge to take action when a judge he or she supervises is arrested for DUI.

DIGEST: Chief Judge is required to take appropriate disciplinary steps when a judge he or she supervises has been arrested for DUI and the Chief Judge has knowledge that the judge has an alcohol abuse problem.

REFERENCES: Illinois Supreme Court Rule 61 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 1 (145 Ill.2d R. 61); Illinois Supreme Court Rules 62A and 62B of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 2 (145 Ill.2d R. 62); Committee Comments to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 62A; Illinois Supreme Court Rule 63B(3) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 3 (145 Ill.2d R. 63); Illinois Judicial Ethics Committee Opinion No. 95-1.

FACTS
Chief Judge learns that one of the judges for whom he or she has supervisory responsibility has been arrested for Driving Under the Influence. The Chief Judge has knowledge that the judge has an alcohol abuse problem and wants to take action to see this judge through one or more alcohol abuse programs.

QUESTION
What obligation does a Chief Judge, who learns that one of the judges he or she supervises has been arrested for DUI, have to inform the Judicial Inquiry Board or to take any disciplinary action against the judge?

OPINION
Rule 63B(3) of the Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct requires that a judge "having knowledge of a violation of these canons on the part of a judge...shall take or initiate appropriate disciplinary measures." This Committee has previously found that a judge having actual knowledge of another judge's violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct must take or initiate appropriate disciplinary measures. See Illinois Judicial Ethics Committee Opinion No. 95-1.

The fact that a judge has been arrested for driving under the influence does not prove that he or she is guilty of that offense. The Chief Judge is not required therefore, to report the fact of the arrest to the Judicial Inquiry Board.
However, the fact of the arrest coupled with the Chief Judge's knowledge that the judge in question has an alcohol abuse problem does require the Chief Judge to take some disciplinary action against the judge. Illinois Supreme Court Rule 61 requires a judge to "personally observe high standards of conduct so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary may be preserved." Illinois Supreme Court Rule 62A provides that "a judge should respect and comply with the law and should conduct himself or herself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary." The Committee Comments to Rule 62A, note that:
Public confidence in the judiciary is eroded by irresponsible or improper conduct by judges. A judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. A judge must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny. A judge must therefore accept restrictions on his or her conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and willingly.
The conduct of the offending judge is such as creates, at a minimum, the appearance of impropriety and thus the Chief Judge is obligated to take disciplinary action. What disciplinary action is appropriate under the facts and circumstances of the case is for the Chief Judge to determine and might include requiring the judge to participate in alcohol abuse programs and may also include reporting the judge to the JIB, if it is deemed appropriate.