State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 94-01
Is a judicial officer required to do more than announce prior employment as a prosecutor whenever there is a case filed where the docket reflects that the case was active while the judicial officer was employed in the prosecutor's office?
When the spouse of a judicial officer is employed by a law enforcement agency, is the judicial officer required to announce the relationship in all cases in which the law enforcement officer is supervised by the judicial officer's spouse? Should the judicial officer make this announcement in all cases which originate from that department or is this action required in cases involving those law enforcement officers supervised by the judge's spouse? Is the practice for entertaining applications for search warrants the same?
The following facts were supplied by the judicial officer: 1) Before the judicial officer was appointed to this court of limited jurisdiction position, the judicial officer was the senior trial deputy for the county prosecuting attorney with supervisory responsibility over all other criminal deputies. The judicial officer did on occasion appear in this court. 2) The judicial officer's spouse is employed in the sheriff's office with supervisory responsibilities over three other deputy sheriffs. In that capacity the spouse reviews and initials the supervisees' reports to determine if they are complete and whether probable cause exists. The judicial officer has no way of knowing whether the spouse reviewed the deputy's work or not. The spouse's position is protected by civil service and whether the supervisees win or lose any case has no effect on the spouse's job. The judicial officer does not hear any case that the spouse originates or any case where the judicial officer knows that the spouse participated in the investigation.
The fact that the judicial officer was employed in the prosecutor's office while a case was active in the prosecutor's office should be disclosed on the record. Additionally, there may be other circumstances which would warrant this disclosure together with an offer to recuse. See also Opinion 91-1.
The Code of Judicial Conduct would not allow the judicial officer to hear cases involving law enforcement officers who are supervised by the spouse of the judicial officer.
The judicial officer should make known any circumstance, such as the fact that the law enforcement officer is employed in the same department as the judicial officer's spouse or is supervised by that spouse, that might cause the judicial officer's impartiality to reasonably be questioned and if appropriate, the judicial officer should offer to withdraw from a particular case.
The judicial officer should not sign warrants for law enforcement officers who are supervised by the judicial officer's spouse or in any cases in which the spouse had any involvement in the investigation.
The judicial officer should instruct the sheriff's office that the judicial officer will not entertain any warrants in which the spouse or the spouse's supervisees have any involvement. The judicial officer should also make an inquiry when an application for a warrant is presented to determine that the spouse and/or supervisees were not involved in this action.
|Courts | Organizations | News | Opinions | Rules | Forms | Directory | Library|
|Back to Top | Privacy and Disclaimer Notices|