January 14, 1985
A judge may not serve as a director of a nonprofit hospital if it is likely that the hospital will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the judge or will be regularly engaged in adversary proceedings in any court.
Reference: MCJC 5B, 5C; CI-914.
A newly elected judge is a director of a nonprofit corporation which owns and operates the only hospital in the county in which the judge will sit. The hospital has been a litigant in the judge's court nine times in the past five years, seven as a defendant in malpractice actions and twice as plaintiff in collection actions. The judge asks whether ethics rules require resignation as a director.
MCJC 5C prohibits a judge serving as ". . . director, officer, manager, advisor or employee of any business."
MCJC 5B permits a judge to "participate in civic and charitable actions that do not reflect adversely upon the judge's impartiality or interfere with the performance of judicial duties. A judge may serve as an officer, director, trustee, or nonlegal advisor of a bona fide educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization, subject to the following limitations:
"(1) A judge should not serve if it is likely that the organization would be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the judge or will be regularly engaged in adversary proceedings in any court." Emphasis added.
This question was previously addressed in CI-914, which concluded that ethics rules precluded a judge from serving as a hospital director, even if the hospital were truly charitable and nonprofit, if it were likely that the hospital would be regularly engaged in adversary proceedings in any court. Inasmuch as the hospital in question has been engaged as a participant in the particularly court in which inquirer will be serving as a judge an average of almost two times a year, it would seem clear that it is very likely that it will continue to be regularly engaged in adversary proceedings in that court in the future, as well as a strong likelihood that it will be engaged in adversary proceedings in other courts.