State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 91-05
CJC Canon 2 does not require the disqualification of a judicial officer from hearing any case in which an attorney from the judicial officer's former firm participates when the judicial officer is owed any payment by a former partner or an outside purchaser of the practice if: 1) the debt of the firm to the judicial officer is fixed in amount; and 2) the appearance of the attorney in the judicial officer's court does not have a significant effect on the firm/partner's ability to pay the indebtedness; and 3) full disclosure is made in writing or on the record. If any of the above circumstances are such as to make the judicial officer's sitting on the case appear inappropriate, then disqualification of the judicial officer should not require an affidavit of prejudice.
If a judicial officer were paid in full for the law practice, there is no specific period of time during which the judicial officer should be disqualified if an attorney from the judicial officer's former firm represents a client in the judicial officer's court. The judicial officer, however, should not preside over the disposition of any matter pending in the judicial officer's former firm at the time the judicial officer assumed office. In addition, there may be situations which require the judicial officer to disclose to the parties and their lawyers the past association if it would lead a reasonable person to infer that the judicial officer is partial or there is a potential for a conflict of interest. The judicial officer would not be required to disclose the former relationship if an attorney, with the former firm who was not so affiliated when the judicial was at the firm, appeared before the judicial officer absent some other circumstances which would justify disclosure or recusal.
The fact that money is owed between the full-time and part-time judge would not bar them from exercising the powers of their respective elected office.
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