State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 93-04
May a judicial officer own real estate jointly with attorneys who appear before the judicial officer on a regular basis?
CJC Canon 2(A) provides in part that judges should conduct themselves in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. CJC Canon 2(B) provides in part that judges should not convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence them. CJC Canon 5(C)(1) provides that judges should refrain from business and financial dealings that tend to reflect adversely on their impartiality, interfere with the proper performance of their judicial duties, or involve them with lawyers likely to come before the court on which they serve. Finally, CJC Canon 5(C)(3) provides that judges should manage their investments and other financial interests to minimize the number of cases in which they are disqualified. CJC Canon 5(C)(3) further provides that as soon as they can do so without serious financial detriment, they should divest themselves of investments and other financial interests that might require frequent disqualification.
A judicial officer should not own real estate jointly with an attorney who regularly appears in the court where the judicial officer sits because the judicial officer would have to be disqualified from hearing any of the attorney's cases. CJC Canon 5(C)(3) provides that judges should manage their investments and other financial interests to minimize the number of cases in which they are disqualified.
Until such time as a judicial officer can be divested, without serious financial detriment, of joint ownership of property with attorneys who regularly appear before a judicial officer, a judicial officer should disclose the joint ownership with the attorney on the record, in all cases in which the attorney appears before the judicial officer. Recusal is not required in every case where the judicial officer has made the disclosure on the record absent other circumstances which would merit it. The judicial officer should realize that in many cases the appearance of impropriety cannot be effectively reduced regardless of the precautions taken.
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