Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1994-22

Advisory Opinion No. 1994-22
Advisory Opinion No. 1994-22

State Employees May Not Accept Outside
Employment As Probate Judge

The petitioner has asked whether a state employee may, if elected, serve as a Judge of Probate.

Probate judges are part of the judicial branch of state government, elected by district, every four years, at state elections.  See Article Fifth of the Constitution of the State of Connecticut, Conn. Gen. Stat. 45a-18.  Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 45a-92(c), probate judges retain, as compensation, a percentage of the receipts generated by the business of their court, up to a maximum equal to the salary of a superior court judge.  Holding office as a probate judge therefore constitutes “employment” within the meaning of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(b).  In pertinent part, 1-84(b) prohibits the acceptance, by a state employee, of other employment which will “impair his independence of judgment as to his official duties.”  Pursuant to 1-84(b), a state employee’s state duties must always take priority; outside employment which threatens such priority impermissibly impairs a state employee’s independence of judgment.  State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 94-15, 56 Conn. L.J. No. 11, p. 1B (9/13/94).

Canon 3 of the Code of Probate Judicial Conduct, to which all probate judges are subject, states unequivocally that “[t]he judicial duties of a [probate] judge take precedence over all his other activities.”  The State Ethics Commission, pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(b), finds that a state employee may not accept outside employment which would require him or her to relegate, to a subordinate role, his or her responsibilities as a state employee.  If elected as a probate judge, a state employee must choose between continuing his or her state employment and fulfilling his or her judicial responsibilities.

The Commission notes in closing that a classified state employee seeking any elective state office must be aware of Conn. Gen. Stat. 5-266a(c), which provides that “[a]ny person employed in the classified state service . . . who accepts any elective state office shall resign from such employment upon taking such office.”  Although the State Ethics Commission does not administer such statute, inquiries concerning the application of 5-266a(c) may be directed to the Office of the Attorney General.

By order of the Commission,

R.E. VanNorstrand

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:00:43 AM