State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 03-06
May a superior court judge or commissioner attend a training seminar that is sponsored by the superior court and taught by practicing attorneys? Would the judicial officer be required to recuse from a case in which one of the attorneys who taught at the seminar appeared? If recusal is not required, would the judicial officer need to disclose to the parties and counsel that the judicial officer attended a seminar recently taught by the attorney?
The superior court is proposing to sponsor training seminars for judges and commissioners on specialized family law topics. Private practice attorneys, who specialize in family law, have offered to make presentations at those seminars. Some of the attorney might appear before the judicial officers who attended the seminars.
CJC Canon 4(A) provides in part that judges may participate in activities concerning the law, the legal system and the administration of justice if in doing so they do not cast doubt on their capacity to decide any issue that comes before them. Canon 2(A) provides in part that judges should act at all times in a manner that promotes the public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Canon 2(B) provides in part that judges should not lend the prestige of the judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others; nor should judges convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence a judge. Finally, Canon 3(D)(1) provides in part that judges should disqualify themselves in a proceeding in which their impartiality might reasonably be questioned.
Generally, judges may attend an education program which will be taught by attorneys who will appear before the judge on cases. This, in and of itself, is not enough to disqualify a judicial officer from presiding over a case in which the attorney, who has previously taught an education program the judge attended, is appearing as counsel.
The judge needs to consider several factors in considering whether the judicial officer is required to recuse from a case in which an attorney who taught an education program the judicial officer recently attended. How recent was the presentation? Is the issue in the instant case the same issue that was discussed as part of the attorney’s presentation at the education program? Were both sides of the issue presented during the program? Did attorneys from a variety of firms with a variety of views participate in the education programs? If after exploring these issues, the judicial officer determines that his or her impartiality would not reasonably be questioned, the judge does not have a duty to withdraw from participating in the case.
The judicial officer should consider disclosing to the parties and counsel that he or she recently attended a seminar taught by counsel if it is relevant to the issue in the case before the court. For instance, a judicial officer should disclose that he or she recently attended a program taught by the attorney in the present case if it related in any way to the case at hand. The judicial officer is not required to offer to withdraw from the proceeding. The judicial officer is required to disclose the attendance at the educational program, reveal generally the substance of the material covered in that program and state why he or she does not feel attendance at the program requires disqualification.
|Courts | Organizations | News | Opinions | Rules | Forms | Directory | Library|
|Back to Top | Privacy and Disclaimer Notices|