State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 93-08
If a judicial officer personally rented office space to a law firm which consists of the judicial officer's former partner and new partner, would that preclude the judicial officer from hearing any cases tried by them during the period of their occupancy?
If the answer is yes, would the prohibition continue if the judicial officer placed the operation and management of the building in trust with a third person named as trustee to receive and distribute rents and manages all building affairs? In this scenario the judicial officer would still need to receive distribution of income.
CJC Canon 2 provides that judges should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of their activities. CJC Canon 3(C)(2) provides in part that judges should inform themselves about their personal financial interests. CJC Canon 5(C)(1) specifically provides that judges should refrain from financial and business dealings that tend to reflect adversely on their impartiality, interfere with the proper performance of their judicial duties, exploit their judicial position, or involve them in frequent transactions with lawyers or persons likely to come before the court on which they serve. CJC Canon 5(C)(1) goes on to provide that judges should manage their investments and other financial interests to minimize the number of cases in which they are disqualified.
A judicial officer may lease real estate to a lawyer without having to be disqualified in cases where those attorneys appear as counsel. The relationship of landlord/tenant alone does not reflect adversely on their impartiality, interfere with the performance of judicial duties, exploit their position as judges or involve them in frequent transactions with those coming before them.
In appropriate circumstances disclosure of the landlord/tenant relationship should be made.
For opinions addressing former law partners see opinions 91-1, 91-5, 91-7, 90-14 and 88-19 as well as CJC Canon 2 and 3.
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