I'm a late bloomer at this party, but I strongly agree with the intent of the original post.
At the KCBS events that we cook in we are still newbys, but we do see an occasional judge or team that crosses over from the MIM/MBA circuit and so we will visit, drink, bs etc. if they take time to stop in. I don't think any ammount of fraternization with judges is really going to give any team a distinct advantage in the circuits that are all-blind judging.
The MIM/MBA still uses the on-site judging for the preliminary and most finals rounds. The thoughts of impropriety and questions of judges integrity really buzz through some teams when they see folks that party and socialize specifically with certain teams on Friday night turn out to be judging some of those same teams on Saturday afternoon. The contest reps do instruct the judges of fairness and impartiality during the Saturday morning judges briefing, but as was mentioned very early on this thread, someone's perception is their reality and then the behind the back accusations can get started.
When I judge at MIM/MBA contests I sometimes get selected for on-site judging. I occasionally will draw a team or teams that I am great friends with, but because of what I expect of them as cooks and other judges when I am being judged. I judge as I am instructed and don't play any favorites or try and sabotage anyones efforts.
We can all hope that all the judges in all the circuits will conduct themselves with the highest level of integrity, regardless of how much time they spend with a team or what they do before they step into the tent for the serious Saturday stuff.
[FONT=Tahoma]Big Tom's BBQ Shop [/FONT]
[FONT=Tahoma]Pigs-R-Us Cooking Team[/FONT]
[FONT=Tahoma]Owensboro, KY / Corinth, MS[/FONT]