State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 05-08
May a judicial officer preside over matters in which the prosecuting attorney appearing in the proceeding is the spouse of that judicial officer? May a judicial officer preside over a matter in which the prosecuting attorney appearing in the proceeding is supervised by the attorney/spouse of that judicial officer?
The spouse of the judicial officer is a deputy prosecuting attorney in the same county as the judge sits. The spouse is the lead attorney in a unit in the prosecutor’s office and supervises several deputies. The judge is rotating into a criminal hearings position which presides over probation hearings, arraignments, pleas, sentencing, omnibus hearings and CrR 3.5 and CrR 3.6 hearings.
CJC Canon 2 requires judicial officers to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety. Canon 2(B) provides in pertinent part that judges may not allow family or other relationships to influence their judicial conduct or judgment. CJC Canon 3(D) provides that judges are disqualified in proceedings in which their impartiality might reasonably be questioned. Subsection 3(D)(1)(d)(ii) provides that those situations requiring disqualification include those instances when the spouse of the judge is acting as a lawyer in the proceeding. Based on the foregoing, a judicial officer may not preside over cases in which the spouse of the judicial officer is acting as the attorney or over any cases in which the spouse of the judicial officer is the supervisor of the deputy prosecuting attorney in the case.
Also see Opinions 88-12, 91-18, 94-1 and 95-10.
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