State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 03-05
Part-time judges are required to comply with CJC Canon 2(A) and 3(D)(1). (Application of the Code of Judicial Conduct (1)). Canon 2(A) provides that judges should comply with the law and act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Canon(D)(1) provides that judges should disqualify themselves in a proceeding in which their impartiality might reasonably be questioned.
A part-time municipal court judge may be employed in the same law firm, which also employs the person who serves as the same town’s city attorney because the city attorney does not appear in the judge’s court and does not draft ordinances that the judge will rule upon. The town has a city prosecuting attorney who is not affiliated with the judge’s law firm who will appear in the part-time judge’s municipal court. The firm should take reasonable steps to establish screens within the firm that deny the judge and the prosecutor access to the electronic and hard copy files of each other regarding city matters.
Because the city attorney does not appear in the court where the judge/attorney associate serves or draft ordinances which are interpreted by that court, there is not a conflict of interest and there is no need to disclose that the part-time judge and city attorney are employed by the same law firm or to have the parties and/or counsel sign a disclosure and waiver form.
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