State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 86-13
Is it proper for a judge’s spouse to work as a volunteer probation person in the same court as the judge sits? Would the answer be any different if the spouse/volunteer probation person were assigned to another District Court in the same county?
Our answer is premised on the following representations made to the committee: 1) although the position is unpaid, the spouse/probation worker performs all the services of a paid probation officer; 2) the court has two other judges and the spouse is not permitted to work on the case of any defendant sentenced by the judge/spouse; 3) in the capacity of probation worker, the spouse uses her maiden name although not for any other purposes; 4) the District Court Probation Department is managed by a director who has the ultimate responsibility for hiring and firing all employees, but individual probation workers are assigned to various courts on a fairly permanent basis; and 5) which probation department is under the direct supervision of the District Court.
A judge does not violate the Code of Judicial Conduct when a fellow judge’s spouse works as a volunteer probation person in the same court as the judge sits.
It is the committee’s opinion that the proper course of action for a judge faced with assigning or having responsibility for assigning to a defendant a probation worker who is the spouse of a fellow judge in he same court would be to notify the defendant of that relationship and to seriously consider a request for the assignment of another probation worker to the defendant’s case if the defendant chooses to make such a request.
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