State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 02-22
Several municipal courts in a county wish to participate in a pilot project authorized by RCW 2.56.160 and 3.50.020. The pilot will permit one court to adjudicate the warrant of another court participating in the project even though the court adjudicating the warrant is not the court that originated the warrant. The courts have drafted an interlocal agreement as authorized by RCW 39.34.180. The pilot project will be for one year.
May a judicial officer accept a waiver of counsel on an unrelated charge when the judicial officer knows that in an unrelated matter in another court, the defendant has counsel? Is the judicial officer obligated to notify counsel about the new charge and is counsel’s presence required for the defendant to waive right to counsel?
CJC Canon 1 provides in part that a judge should observe high standards of judicial conduct so that the integrity of the judiciary will be preserved. Canon 2(A) also requires judges to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. CJC Canon 3(A)(4) provides in part that judges should accord every person who is legally interested in a proceeding, or that person’s lawyer, full right to be heard according to law.
The Code of Judicial Conduct does not prohibit a judicial officer from accepting a waiver of counsel on an unrelated charge when the judicial officer knows in an unrelated matter in another court the defendant has counsel. The judicial officer should disclose on the record that he or she is aware of the representation on the unrelated case and inquire if counsel is also representing the defendant in the instant case. If the answer is no, the judicial officer has no obligation to notify counsel about the new charge and counsel’s presence is not required for the defendant to waive right to counsel. This exchange should also be made a part of the record and be thorough enough to ascertain that the attorney waiver is made knowingly and intelligently.
The holding jurisdiction should confine its activities to arraignment and bond or transfer proceedings because of the language of RCW 3.50.020.
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