050619 SCJEO, JUD 7-2019

Docket Nº:JUD 7-2019
Case Date:May 06, 2019
Court:South Carolina
 
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JUD 7-2019
Opinion No. 7-2019
South Carolina Judicial Ethics Opinion
Advisory Committee On Standards of Judicial Conduct
May 6, 2019
          LETITIA H. VERDIN, CHAIR.          RE: Propriety of a municipal court judge’s docket clerk dating a law enforcement officer.          FACTS          A municipal court judge’s docket clerk is in a relationship with a law enforcement officer for the same municipality. The docket clerk is responsible for scheduling cases and documenting events that occur in cases while in open court. The docket clerk is also responsible for case management, including recording final dispositions in Municipal Court cases and following instructions from the municipal judge(s). The docket clerk appears in court regularly and may be present at the same time that the law enforcement officer the clerk is dating appears to prosecute traffic cases. The municipal court judge inquires as to whether he or she must disclose to all parties the relationship between the docket clerk and the law enforcement officer, or if the docket clerk should be recused from handling those cases.          CONCLUSION          A municipal court judge does not need to recuse the docket clerk who is involved with a law enforcement officer, nor does the judge need to disclose the relationship.          OPINION          The Canons do not address when a judge’s clerk should be recused, only a judge, stating that a judge must disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding where his/her impartiality might reasonably be questioned. Rule 501, SCACR, Canon 3E(1).[1]          This Committee has addressed, on various occasions, judges married or related to persons involved in law enforcement, with varying conclusions. See, Opinions 172002 (magistrate dating police officer must recuse himself in any matters in which the police officer appeared); 1-1989 (finding no ethical violation where judge is married to SLED officer); 1-1991(magistrate can preside over cases prosecuted by sheriff’s department even though judge’s son is sheriff); 9-1994 (no violation where magistrate is married to a sheriff’s deputy); 25-1995 (no...

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