Of Interest

Hon. Terry L. Clark leads Judicial Ethics Committee


by Scott Atkinson   |   Michigan Bar Journal

Hon. Terry L. Clark is at the heart of anything and everything that needs to be done on behalf of the State Bar of Michigan Judicial Ethics Committee.

A member of the committee since 2014, the Saginaw district judge has served as chair since 2015. The jurisdiction of the Judicial Ethics Committee, as granted by the SBM Board of Commissioners, includes recommending amendments to the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct and providing guidance on standards of professional conduct by judges and judicial candidates. members of the Judicial Ethics Committee are volunteers, but Clark remains unique in his enthusiastic commitment to the committee. He readily takes on virtually every volunteering opportunity with the committee, serving on subcommittees, drafting ethics opinions, and speaking to various groups.

Heading into his 34th year on the bench, Clark also serves on the Criminal Jury Instructions Committee, and from 1989-1990 was chair of the State Bar of Michigan Representative Assembly.

“For me, the reason I got involved and stayed involved is because I’ve always believed in volunteer service for the State Bar,” Clark said. “I’ve always believed that it’s important for us to give part of ourselves to the Bar so that we can be ambassadors for the State Bar of Michigan.”

Quick to give other members credit for the work the committee has accomplished over the years, Clark said being a volunteer allows him to better see and understand the important work being done and services that are available to Michigan attorneys — including the State Bar of Michigan’s Ethics Helpline, which Michigan attorneys (including judicial officers) can call anonymously for guidance when difficult situations arise. “I’m really proud of the tremendous work the hotline does,” he said.

He said he’s also proud of how the committee has tackled tough, new ethical issues in recent years, particularly regarding technology. The committee has looked closely at issues involving social media and, most recently, artificial intelligence to ensure Michigan judges get the guidance they need.

“Everyone’s talking about it,” he said about artificial intelligence. “What happens when I get a lawyer or someone in my courtroom where that’s raised?”

The Judicial Ethics Committee released JI- 155 in October 2023 that determined judicial officers must maintain competence with advancing technology, including artificial intelligence. Members of the committee work hard to ensure it offers timely, relevant guidance for Michigan judges, Clark said.

Asked if there is one thing he wishes more people knew about the committee, Clark said simply: “That we’re here. We’re here to serve. We’re here to help.”

"Spotlight" features a Michigan attorney who provides important volunteer service to the State Bar of Michigan and highlights the variety of work being done to support Michigan attorneys and the administration of justice.