Judges’ Membership in Discriminatory Organizations
Every state has a code of judicial conduct that sets ethical guidelines for judges. All states have judicial conduct commissions with the power to investigate, prosecute, and decide cases of judicial misconduct. There is also a code of conduct for federal judges. The code of judicial conduct requires a judge to avoid not only impropriety but also the appearance of impropriety. The code of judicial conduct also covers judicial integrity, independence, diligence and impartiality. Membership in discriminatory organizations is currently a controversial topic.
Membership in Groups that Discriminate on Basis of Sexual Orientation
Bar associations have been seeking changes to judicial ethics codes that would prohibit a judge from holding a membership in a group that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation. The Los Angeles County Bar Association has asked the California Supreme Court to amend the California Code of Judicial Conduct. The amendment would prohibit a judge’s membership in any nonprofit youth organization that practiced invidious discrimination.
The American Bar Association has also proposed a change in its canons of judicial conduct that would prohibit membership in groups that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. The rule permits membership in a U.S. military organization or groups dedicated to preserving religious, ethnic, or cultural values.
Membership in Groups that Discriminate on Basis of Race, Sex, Religion, or National Origin
The Indiana Supreme Court adopted a new Code of Judicial Conduct, which states that a judge cannot hold a membership in an organization that practices invidious discrimination based on race, sex, religion, or national origin. The Indiana Supreme Court concluded that membership in an organization that practices invidious discrimination raises questions about a judge’s impartiality.
The New Mexico judicial code prohibits a judge from holding membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination based on race, sex, religion, or national origin. Membership is permitted in private organizations that are dedicated to preserving religious, ethnic, or cultural values. The New Mexico Advisory Committee has concluded that membership in the Freemasons is not permissible because the group excludes women from membership. Factors to consider include whether there is membership cap, whether the members are asked to recruit new members to expand membership, and whether the organization advertises its activities.