July 8, 2010

Nevada Ethics committee: Judges can't be bought

... on the auction block, that is.

A District Court judge may not be auctioned off to attend a luncheon date with the winning bidder to raise money for a nonprofit research organization, the state’s judicial ethics committee ruled.

Several judges, some of whom are up for re-election, have been asked by an unidentified research organization to attend a luncheon at which the silent auction will be held.

The Standing Committee on Judicial Ethics and Election Practices said the silent auction to raise the money may be for a “philanthropic and worthy purpose” but it is “fraught and ethical peril.”

The opinion notes the winning bidder may have a legal matter before the judge and it would give the appearance that access to judges "is something that can be auctioned for any reason."

I'm sure the nonprofit research organization (which remains unnamed in the opinion) had only the best intentions, but the Ethics Committee made the right decision here.

By the nature of their profession, judges must be impartial and independent. Allowing them to be "bought," even for a worthy cause, would have damaged these characteristics.