March 11, 1992
Chairman of the Workers' Compensation Board
Department of Workers' Claims
Perimeter Park West, Building C
1270 Louisville Road
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601
Dear Mr. Angelucci:
In OAG 92-21 we said that the Governor may not order the removal of an administrative law judge who violates a code of ethics imposed by executive order. We said that an administrative law judge may be removed only under KRS 342.230(3) and (4) for violation of the code of judicial ethics. Our opinion has prompted you to ask:
1. If an administrative law judge employed pursuant to KRS 342.230(3) is found to be in violation of an Executive Order issued by the Governor, does this constitute violation of the Code of Judicial Ethics per se?
2. If the answer to question No. 1 is no, is the Workers' Compensation Board precluded from removing an administrative law judge from office under KRS 342.230(3)?
The code of judicial ethics cited in the statute apparently refers to the Code of Judicial Conduct adopted by the Supreme Court in Rule 4.300. We find nothing in the Code that would definitively broaden or define its scope to provide that any violation of an executive order constitutes a per se violation of the Code. The only provision of the Code that might suggest such a flat rule is paragraph A of Canon 2, which says:
A judge should respect and comply with the law and should conduct himself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
We find the quoted language too vague to support a rule that violation of an executive order constitutes a per se violation of the Code. Therefore the answer to your first question is no. We note, however, that official interpretations of the Code can be obtained only from the Ethics Committee of the Kentucky Judiciary under SCR 4.310. We venture to provide an opinion here only because the Ethics Committee provides opinions only to justices, judges, and trial commissioners, and presumably would not offer an opinion on the question you present.
In response to your second question, the Workers' Compensation Board may certainly proceed to remove an administrative law judge for violation of the Code. The statute (KRS 342.030(4)) says, The board may remove any administrative law judge for violation of the code of judicial ethics. If an administrative law judge violates the Code, he may be removed, regardless of whether his conduct also violates an executive order.
Ross T. Carter
Assistant Attorney General