NOTE: Various references in this ethics opinion to portions of the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct are no longer accurate due to amendments effective August 1, 2013. Click here to review language added to (which is underlined) and language stricken from (which is indicated by strikethrough) Canons 2, 4, 5, and 7.
November 15, 1996
A judge may serve as "track steward" at an automobile race provided that the judge is not classified as an employee of the race track, race sponsor, race sanctioning body or other organization involved in holding the activity.
References: MCJC 5A, 5C(2), 6.
A judge inquires whether the judge may serve as a "track steward" for automobile racing events sponsored by a national automobile race sanctioning body. The judge would be compensated for services as well as expenses, and there would be no publication or visible indication that the worker is in fact a judge.
MCJC 5A states:
"A. Avocational Activities: A judge may write, lecture, teach, speak and consult on nonlegal subjects, appear before public nonlegal bodies, and engage in the arts, sports, and other social and recreational activities, if such avocational activities do not detract from the dignity of the office or interfere with the performance of the office or interfere with the performance of judicial duties." Emphasis added.
The Committee sees no adverse ethical implications from a judge's participation in an auto racing activity, provided that the particular activity does not detract from the dignity of the office.
One area of concern arises because the judge will be compensated for time and expenses. Generally, ethics rules do not prohibit receipt of income from sources other than the judge's salary. See MCJC 5C and 6. However, MCJC 5C(2) prohibits a judge from serving as a director, officer, manager, advisor, or employee of any business. Therefore, if the judge, by serving as track steward, is classified as an employee of the particular sponsoring or sanctioning organization, the judge could not serve. The determination of the track steward's status is not within the scope of the Committee's authority, and the inquirer is urged to seek clarification on this point.
Therefore, a judge may serve as a track steward at an automobile race provided that the judge does not become an employee of the sponsoring, sanctioning, or other organization involved in putting on the specified activity. Any compensation received from such activity would have to be reported pursuant to MCJC 6.