State Bar of Arizona Ethics Opinions

91-16: Pro Bono Activities
6/1991

Attorney, who serves as a judge pro tem without pay, may properly count such judicial activity as pro bono publico service under ER 6.1, as amended.



 June 7, 1991

 

FACTS AND QUESTION

 

The Legal Services Committee of the State Bar has requested an opinion from this committee on the question whether an attorney, who serves as a judge pro tem without pay, may properly count such judicial activity as pro bono publico service under E.R. 6.1, as recently amended.

 

ETHICAL RULE INVOLVED

 

ER 6.1.           Voluntary Pro Bono Publico Service

 

(a) A lawyer should voluntarily render public interest legal service. A lawyer may discharge this responsibility by rendering a minimum of fifty hours of service per calendar year by one or a combination of the following activities:

 

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(2) Providing services at no fee or at a substantially reduced fee in connection with law-related education sponsored by the Arizona Bar Foundation or activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession; or

 

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OPINION

 

It is a common practice for lawyers to serve as judges pro tem for individual cases. The Legal Services Committee of the State Bar has asked this committee whether judicial service as a judge pro tem, without pay, constitutes pro bono publico service under ER 6.1, as recently amended.

 

The new Ethical Rule defines pro bono publico service in a broad manner. It includes not only direct representation of the poor and near poor, but also embraces non-representational activities which are designed to improve the law, the legal system or the legal profession. The Comment to the recently amended rule states, in part:

 

The Rule broadly allows service to be satisfied by activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession. It is not possible to state the many different kinds of service that may be covered. Among others, the following kinds of activities are contemplated: activities in law related education, both to the public and in training other lawyers, law enforcement personnel, or law-related personnel; speaking appearances where the topic is educational and is about the law or the legal system; assistance or research for another volunteer lawyer or pro se indigent; service on certain boards, sections or committees of a state or county bar if the board, section or committee is engaged in work to improve the law and legal system; volunteer assistance to the poor or aged on income tax return preparation; screening or intake for legal services organizations; participation in law days or brief legal advice programs.

 

The availability of judges pro tem is essential to the administration of justice in Arizona. Many of the courts' civil and criminal delay reduction plans are dependent upon the availability of judges pro tem to hear cases when a regularly assigned judge is occupied with a trial. Service as a judge pro tem plainly is activity designed to improve the administration of justice.

 

Accordingly, it is the opinion of this committee that service as a judge pro tem, without pay, is pro bono publico service under ER 6.1, as amended.

 

Formal Opinions of the Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct are advisory in nature only and are not binding in any disciplinary or other legal proceedings. 

©State Bar of Arizona 1991



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